Even though the local housing market didn't reach boom status in 2013, the revved up sales atmosphere certainly proved a blast for builders, agents and buyers.
Look for more of the same going forward, as development activity climbs to levels not seen in seven years or more.
Yet also expect early 2014's home sales patterns to fluctuate thanks to a paucity of finished lots ready for framing. Although there are no signs of a real estate bust, the Lowcountry housing trade could face a bump or two this year.
"Our local real estate market experienced the best year since 2007 in several (housing) categories," says Will Jenkinson, broker-in-charge of Carolina One New Homes.
He made the remarks as part of the quarterly Charleston New Homes Snapshot, a joint venture of Carolina One New Homes and Charleston-based Real Estate Information Service. The authors released the first snapshot of 2014 last week.
House sale "closings" - the documents showing that properties have officially changed hands - topped 12,000 last year, or more than 1,000 a month. Nearly one-quarter of the closings, or more than 2,800 in all, were new-home deals. Meanwhile, builders last year pulled 3,700-plus permits geared to home construction, which averages more than 10 a day.
Jenkinson penned a note of caution. "As we enter 2014, we will be challenged by the shortage of finished lots," he says. But the broker's comments tended toward the positive. "Development activity has returned to 2006-07 levels with many parcels in all three counties (Berkeley, Charleston, Dorchester) going through this tedious process" of being prepped for development.
Even with the challenges of finding ready-to-go land, Jenkinson stays at least outwardly optimistic. "I hope everyone is off to a great start in the new year," he says.
In the report, Jenkinson and REIS more closely examined three housing-related indicators: single-family home permits, new-home transactions and sale-closing activity among the region's top 10 local builders.
Real Estate Information Service drew up a graphic disclosing fairly steady increases in single-family permits in the past four years, from 2,787 in 2010 when a first-time-homebuyer tax credit temporarily boosted the market, to 2,597 in 2011, 3,132 in 2012 and 3,779 last year.
"Overall, permit activity is up almost 50 percent since 2011 and is the highest since 2007," Jenkinson says.
"Typically, strong permit activity is a good sign that builder confidence is increasing in the market," he says. "This is always a strong indicator of the future."
The volume of new-home sales that closed in 2013 followed a similar year-to-year trend. According to Real Estate Information Service, new-home closings went from 2,281 in 2010 to 2,085 in 2011, 2,318 in 2012 and 2,869 last year.
"New-home closings edged closer to the 3,000 mark in 2013 and are up 38 percent in the past two years," Jenkinson says in the quarterly real estate snapshot.
"With permit activity continuing to grow and new developments taking shape this year, we will continue to see this number increase over the next several years," he predicts.
A final chart from Real Estate Information Service compares new-home closings in 2012 and 2013, including for the 10 largest builders in metro Charleston.
"Overall, there was a 28 percent increase from year over year for this group, and they also represent 78 percent of the total new home closings in the entire market for last year," Jenkinson says.
All but two builders reported increases in closings last year from 2012.
"Lennar had the largest percentage increase, while Pulte led the way with total units closed in 2013," he says.
Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Greater Charleston housing market at a glance:
Top 10 Builders' Closings in 2012 to 2013 (est. totals):
Pulte Group - 440.
Ryland Homes - 345.
D.R. Horton - 275.
Beazer Homes - 220.
Lennar Homes - 195.
Crescent Homes - 190.
Mungo Homes - 150.
Eastwood Homes - 140.
Dan Ryan Builders - 110.
David Weekley Homes - 90.
Source: REIS Inc.