EPA cites Crescent Homes for environmentally-friendly work

A Charleston-based builder that’s framing homes in six area localities has been honored by the federal government’s environmental oversight agency.

Crescent Homes recently took home a 2011 Energy Star Leadership in Housing award. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency presents the awards.

The company built more than 80 Energy Star qualified homes last year. Combined, the homes will save customers $35,760 on utility bills each year, Crescent says. The environmental benefits are equal to eliminating the emissions from close to 4 vehicles and planting 64.8 acres of trees.

To earn Energy Star status, a home must meet strict guidelines for energy efficiency set by the EPA. The homes are at least 20 percent more efficient than standard new homes built today, according to Crescent.

“Throughout the planning, design and construction process Crescent Homes is committed to building healthy, durable and energy-efficient homes that will save our homeowners money and reduce our overall carbon footprint,” says Ted Terry, company president.

Ecologically friendly features in Energy Star qualified homes include effective insulation systems, high performance windows, tight construction and ducts and properly-sized and installed efficient heating and cooling equipment.

“Energy Star qualified homes provide more comfort, durability, and a healthier environment than homes built to code. On top of that, they’re tested and inspected to perform,” says Sam Rashkin, national director for the EPA’s Energy Star Homes Program.

Crescent Homes builds in nine neighborhoods in and around Charleston; Terrabrook on James Island; The Retreat at Johns Island; Oak Terrace Preserve, Indigo Palms and Baker Plantation in North Charleston; Coker’s Crossing in Goose Creek; White Gables and Highwoods Plantation in Summerville; and Rivertowne on the Wando in Mount Pleasant.

Report: Non-distressed home prices rise month-to-month

Sales of foreclosed properties and of homes where lenders didn’t get all their loan money back kept down overall dollar figures in greater Charleston.

Home prices in the Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville metro area slipped by 1.8 percent in July from a year earlier when distressed sales were included, according to CoreLogic information company’s Home Price Index. They fell 3.2 percent from revised June figures as compared with the same month a year ago.

By contrast, year-over-year prices with distressed sales excluded shot up 6.5 percent in July from last year and rose 3.5 percent — based on the revised June numbers — compared with a year earlier.

Distressed properties include foreclosures, where homes are taken back and marketed for sale by the bank; and “short sales” where the mortgage holder and borrower negotiate a price less than the loan amount owed.

Meanwhile, CoreLogic reports that home prices nationwide in July increased 0.8 percent from June, the fourth straight month of gains. Year-over-year, though, national home prices, including distressed sales, dipped 5.2 percent in July compared with a year ago. In June, prices fell 6 percent from a year earlier.

Taking out distressed sales, year-over-year prices declined by 0.6 percent in July from 12 months earlier and by 1.9 percent in June from a year ago.

“While July's numbers remained relatively positive, particularly for non-distressed sales which have been stable, seasonal influences are expected to fade in late summer,” says Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic.

“At that point, the month-over-month growth will most likely turn negative. The slowdown in economic growth and increased uncertainty caused by the recent stock market volatility will continue to exert downward pressure on prices,” he says.

Based on sales figures excluding distressed properties, South Carolina was one of the strongest markets in the U.S. in July with prices appreciating 5.5 percent last year. Only West Virginia, up 16.8 percent, showed a larger percentage gain. West Virginia also placed at the top in highest price jump including distressed sales, up 14 percent.

By contrast, the greatest depreciation was in Nevada, off 12.2 percent including distressed sales and down 9.6 percent excluding them.

Pools, water top condo amenities nationally

Condo associations charge dues for a number of uses, most notably to pay amenities.

According to a new Institute of Real Estate Management benchmarking study, water-related attractions head the list of highlights.

Many condo neighborhoods nationwide furnish various amenities and in some cases, utilities to the condo units.

The most prevalent perk was water such as ponds and fountains, supplied by 64 percent of associations. Next were garage parking spaces, 53 percent; swimming pools, 50 percent; recreational buildings, 29 percent; covering the cost of electricity, 23 percent; tennis courts, 15 percent; gas, 12 percent; hot water, 11 percent; Jacuzzis, 10 percent; saunas. 5 percent; and heating fuel, 3 percent.

Money available to pay condo fees

For some condominium owners, the biggest cost isn’t the loan payment or upkeep, it’s the homeowners’ association dues that cover common areas.

There may be help on the way, Michelle Whitbeck in her Lowcountry Real Estate Update says.

Secondary mortgage lender Freddie Mac is offering eligible buyers up to $1,500 for condo association dues, says Whitbeck, Realtor with Keller Williams Realty in Mount Pleasant, citing Housing Wire.

The government-sponsored entity says the incentive is for condos available through its HomeSteps unit, on the market for at least 120 days and sold to owner-occupants, according to the real estate news service.

Buyers can apply for Freddie Mac’s “Condo Cash” offer until Nov. 15. They must close on a purchase before Dec. 30.

Freddie Mac offers a two-year limited home warranty covering electrical, plumbing, air conditioning, heating and other major systems, while providing discounts of up to 30 percent on appliances for a new buyer. In May, the enterprise began offering up to 3.5 percent assistance in buyers’ closing cost “as a way to help drive sales higher through the summer selling season,” Whitbeck says.