By JIM PARKER

The Post and Courier

If an all-topsy-turvy list were released for the past decade, residential real estate undoubtedly would land near the top.

Cases of well-planned growth and over-exuberant expansion reflected the market 2003 to 2007. Just when it seemed like real estate sales and prices were on a perpetual upward curve, they fell precipitously. That lead to one of the deepest housing slumps in generations, lasting much of five years. Conditions tended to bottom out in late 2012, and the home sales market now seems to be in full recovery.

Yet through that time, activity in certain real estate-related fields avoided the coaster ride — at least the gut-wrenching downward slide.

“For our company, we’ve been averaging 35 percent growth over the past 10 years,” says John Liberatos, chief executive of RentCharleston.com and its affiliates.

The rental and property management business tended to enjoy the frothy conditions of the early 2000s yet offered an alternative to the housing market drops and foreclosures during the later part of the decade. Conversely, leased homes, condos, townhomes and apartments are taking part in the market rebound as prices stay competitive and new developments emerge.

“I see a continued trend for a strong rental market,” he says.

Liberatos cites two reasons: “A lot of people still can’t buy homes,” he says. At the same time, younger people don’t see ownership as a necessity, preferring the flexibility of renting in case they’re abruptly transferred.

“There are a lot of advantages to renting,” he says.

The dozens of companies involved in metro Charleston’s property lease and management business can chime in. Some ventures are in expansion modes, adding branches and coverage areas or extending into new fields such as property repair and managing apartment complexes rather than solely individual properties.

“We are continuing to focus on growing profitable on management,” says Matt Manaker, partner in Charleston Home Rentals.

“We think there are a good 1,000 to 2,000 agents out there with investor clients. “We would really like to be the ‘go to’ people,” he says.

Individually owned beachside and downtown properties predominate locally, says Matt Azar, partner with Manaker. He sees the Charleston area joining a nationwide trend where institutional investors, following the lead of noted financier Warren Buffett, buy dozens of properties in one transaction that require management expertise.

To beef up its offering, eight-year-old Charleston Home Rentals in the past year launched Charleston Home Repairs to fix up properties it manages for investors and eventually homes and multifamily residences for outside groups, he says.

Charleston Home Rentals counts seven employees and bought a duplex on upper Meeting St. that is in line to be its new permanent office.

That’s our focus, to (be) profitable with managed growth,” Azar says.

Meanwhile, the RentCharleston.com group includes two downtown offices and one each in James Island and Mount Pleasant.

“We’ve got stuff all the way out to Cottageville,” Liberatos says.

The venture this week opened its fifth outlet, and first outside greater Charleston, in Hendersonville, N.C. “There’s a real strong Charleston connection” in Hendersonville, about 20 minutes south of Asheville, he says.

In business for 16 years, RentCharleston.com takes a broad base approach to property management, overseeing and handling rentals for close to 800 property units including individual houses and multifamily properties and helping to manage 34 homeowners associations. The venture also markets and manages two apartment communities: The Commons, at St. Philip and Cannon streets, and the trendy new East Central Lofts on Huger Street on the upper peninsula. “We’ve already leased (East Central Lofts),” he says, with tenants expected to move in by August.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.