Charleston's lure for homebuyers has triggered growth in real estate firms in the last year.

The region's high online search activity for homes is one reason Golden Bear Realty, a Jack Nicklaus family-owned company, is set to tee up a new office in the area, officials said.

The firm's CEO and president, Michael Nicklaus, is the son of golf legend Jack.

"Charleston has a lot of great real estate, and it's heavily searched," said Todd Vance, a manager at the firm.

He added that Golden Bear's business concept includes several websites that list luxury real estate, golf course communities, waterfront homes and high-rise condominiums in the Palm Beach, Fla., area.

Now, the firm is branching out from its South Florida footprint.

Its local office, at 960 Morrison Drive on the peninsula, is scheduled to open by July, Vance said.

The firm is also looking to expand to Hilton Head Island and Vail, Colo.

The elder Nicklaus, whose nickname is the Golden Bear, already has business ties to Charleston.

He and son Gary are investors in DeSano Pizza Bakery, which opened a location on the upper peninsula in September, not far from the future real estate office.

Golden Bear Realty will join the growing number of real estate firms and agents competing for listings and sales in the region.

The Charleston Trident Association of Realtors reported 3,799 agents and 723 offices in the region at the end of January, including home offices. That's up from the 3,401 agents and 696 offices for the same month a year ago.

Foreclosures fall

The Charleston area's foreclosure rate continues to dip. In December, 2.31 percent of homes in the region were in some stage of being repossessed, down slightly more than a percentage point from the same month in 2012, according to a new report from real estate information firm CoreLogic.

That's slightly ahead of the 2.08 percent rate for all of South Carolina and the 2.09 percent U.S. average, the firm said.

The Charleston region's mortgage delinquency rate also decreased.

In December, 4.9 percent of mortgage loans were 90 days or more in arrears compared with 6.2 percent for the same period the previous year.

Reach Tyrone Richardson at 937-5550 or