Brunswick County Real Estate market trending in positive direction

By Sam Hickman
Brunswick Beacon
Tuesday, January 27, 2015 at 3:45 pm

BOLIVIA — As numbers from last year’s trickled in at the beginning of the year, local real estate brokers had plenty of reason to be enthused about the market again.

Annual sales numbers obtained by the Beacon last week show that Brunswick County had a 7 percent increase from 2013 to 2014 in total sales revenue, which mostly include the housing market, according to figures from the Brunswick County Association of Realtors.

Leland is not included in the data provided by the Brunswick County Association of Realtors because is part of the Wilmington area multiple listing services when data is compiled, Carolina Plantations owner and broker-in-charge Doug Terhune said.

Date show 3,232 total sales transactions in 2013 while 100-plus more sales were made in 2014 — a 3-percent increase.

Brunswick County Association of Realtors CEO Steve Candler and administrative assistant Cynthia Cumbee attribute to the rise of total sales revenue and transactions to an improving economy.

“We’re encouraged by these recent trends,” Candler said. “These numbers are reflected by the fact that membership has increased in the association in the last couple years. The economy is improving enough to bring these folks back in the fold.”

When the economy began to plummet in the mid- to late 2000s, the housing market was no longer one that benefitted sellers, association member and Realtor Bruce Williams said.

“I’ve never seen it in the industry drop so dramatically,” Williams said. “To see it move and turn in the right direction, like it’s doing now, is certainly heartwarming. When the economy began to struggle, it was as if everything was just going downhill. Buyers, sellers, Realtors, moving companies, plumbers, electricians, roofers, the economy affects all of those individuals.”

“Those were lean and scary times for Brunswick County,” Terhune said. “There were several factors that fueled the downturn.

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The leading edges of the baby boomers were starting to retire. Developers and builders in this region couldn’t cut down trees and put four stakes in the ground fast enough.

“Back then, we were really selling virtual communities. When the economy halted, many developers were so leveraged that when they didn’t have a revenue stream, they couldn’t continue to stay open. Within years, thousands of people who bought home sites in these virtual communities had to decide whether to pay mortgage on their home in Maryland or pay the mortgage on their home site in Ocean Isle Beach. The value of land precipitously dropped to, in some cases, as much as 5 to 10 percent of the prices paid by this group of baby boomers.”

Terhune credits the upward trends, in part, to much better interest rates.
“The interest rates have been huge,” he said. “People back in the 1980s, in that market they paid 11 to 16 percent interest in a home at one point. Four percent interest rates, that’s like free money.”

Carolina Plantations conducted market research that showed almost 10,000 to 15,000 baby boomers were retiring per day, Terhune said.

“If those people have the means, they want to leave high taxes,” he said. “They want to leave the cold weather. They want to leave the congestion. They want to leave the bad traffic. They want to go someplace warmer and affordable.”

When the economy took a downturn, the baby boomers no longer had the resources to leave their permanent homes in the northeast region of the United States.

Terhune said those with the resources to move are starting to buy homes in Brunswick County again for several reasons. Prospective buyers always look at what he calls “the stuff.”

“They don’t want to live in the big city,” he said. “They want to be near the beach in a warm climate in an area with great medical services, shopping, dining, entertainment and airport accessibility. That’s what they’re looking for. Those folks don’t want to be isolated.”

When Terhune analyzes the east coast between Richmond, Va., and the Georgia-Florida boundary, he knows why Brunswick County has been so successful in landing retirees.
“The only other area that has what Brunswick County has is perhaps Wilmington, and the Hilton Head (S.C.) areas,” he said. “But even with Wilmington, people want to move away from that congestion.”

Terhune pointed out places like the Outer Banks, which is too isolated, Charleston, S.C., which has a big-city feel, and Savannah, Ga., as areas where retirees don’t want to settle when moving from a populous area in the north.

“Brunswick County has the stuff these individuals are looking for,” he said. “Right now, we’re in a rooftop economy. Brunswick County is building lots of rooftops.”

Terhune said Ocean Ridge has more than 30 homes under construction; St. James, 100; Compass Pointe near Leland, more than 40; and Brunswick Forest, more than 90.

“Just with those communities, that’s more than 300 homes currently under construction in this area,” he said. “We’re in a rooftop economy. That’s a lot of rooftops.”

When the economy is strong, Candler added, it naturally increases the tax base.

“There’s an increase in the tax base through natural inflation or the services the county can provide the citizens,” he said.

Candler, Williams and Cumbee said they realized the economy would rebound from the worst recession the country has seen in several years.

“Our chief economist (with the National Association of Realtors), Lawrence Yun, said it’d be a 10-year cycle,” Williams said. “Everything we’ve heard from him since has been much of the same.”

While Candler is excited about the trends in Brunswick County, he doesn’t want prices on homes to skyrocket as a result.

“I think for the benefit of the county, the slow, steady increase in price of the units sold, it’d be best if they’d continue to increase by 4 to 7 percent,” he said. “An increase of that amount each year would be more manageable than the ups and downs of a roller coaster. A manageable market is better for buyers and sellers.”

“That’s right,” Cumbee said. “When you have big ups, that means the big downs are coming.”

Candler said, “For every mountain, there’s a valley. That’s what you have to be mindful of.”

Additionally, real estate brokers are seeing less and less distressed properties through Brunswick County. Distressed properties include foreclosures, short sales and bank-owned homes, among other properties.

In recent years, federal legislation had quite an impact on the local housing market, especially after the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012 was passed.

The act, which would have caused a dramatic increase in flood insurance rates for homeowners, especially in the coastal region, was eventually repealed, but still created ripple effects throughout the local real estate industry, Candler said.

“It affected people in several ways,” he said. “People wanted to see if federal insurance was available, first of all. People wanted to see if they could sell their homes because of the rate increases.”

Legislation has since been passed that repealed the provisions of the Biggert-Waters Act, restoring confidence in those deciding whether to sell or buy their secondary homes on the coast.

“I anticipate when the flood maps are redrawn and approved, several homes will move from the VE zone to the AE zones, which is much more affordable when it comes to flood insurance,” Candler said. “This will once again increase home ownership in Brunswick County.”

The real estate industry is vital to Brunswick County, Candler said.

“It really is. We just don’t have the other types of industries the places like Raleigh have,” he said. “The pendulum swings better when the housing market is doing well. The sales taxes are better, more people are employed and individuals are spending the money they’re making back into the local economy. It certainly helps.”

Terhune is confident in Brunswick County’s real estate market moving forward.

“Remember the numbers,” he said. “There are 10,000 to 15,000 retirees a day. They all want to get the heck out (of the north). Brunswick County will grow. Think about it: This week, they’re getting ready for this colossal snowstorm. When they retire, they want out.

“Can you imagine how many people up there are on the Internet this week looking for places to retire? That’s where Brunswick County will benefit. Southern Realtors love snow. We love lots of snow as long as it falls up north. That serves as the catalyst for people making the decision to move.”

The economic downturn served as a learning tool for lots of people in Brunswick County, Terhune said.

“I’m glad we’re getting back to those times when the economy is trending in the right direction,” he said. “American learned a lesson. We removed the word ‘risk’ from real estate. We want stable, financially sound communities. Thank goodness they exist in Brunswick County today.”

Sam Hickman is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or shickman@brunswickbeacon.com.

“Livin’ la Vida Loca”

Carolina Plantations Real Estate

Every day from Maine to California to Florida, real estate professionals are urging people to get off the sidelines and jump into the market of opportunity.

Unless you are in your 80s and 90s, the average adult has never had the ability to purchase real estate at such low interest rates. Want to guess what my first interest rate was when I purchased my home in the 80s? It was 13 ¼% and in the North Atlanta suburbs we mortgaged $70,000 in 1982 and our monthly mortgage (P&I) was $788. Today, someone leveraging the same amount would pay $314. That is 39% of what we paid in the early 80s!

In 2006 when I opened Carolina Plantations, real estate prices were high and almost every commercial building was occupied. So as a hedge bet, I purchased 1.5 acres zoned Highway Business in Shallotte on Hwy 17 with hopes of building my office on it one day. In the meantime, I lucked out with a long term lease on the building that we have called home for the past 6 years.

This summer an opportunity arose in Shallotte with a friend of mine and he wound up swapping the old Huddle House restaurant for my property. Finally we could have an office with more than two paved parking places. (of course after a major renovation!! 🙂

Seven days a week the team at Carolina Plantations does our best to convey to people that if you have the means to secure real estate now, than by doing so you will rest easy knowing that you got in at an incredible time. So, instead of just preaching “Living the Crazy Life”, Carolina Plantations went out and joined in the frenzy because we believe in the market here in Brunswick County, NC. And while it has been slow in many markets up and down the east coast, Brunswick County has been on fire in 2012 with an increase of more than 50%.

Make no mistake about it, we are two small businesses (including Plan View Design) but we impact a lot of people’s lives. For example, every time Haley designs a home, our clients choose a builder and the economic impact of $400,000 being infused into our economy is pretty amazing. Now consider that Plan View Design works with over 50 clients a year and we are the catalyst for $20,000,000 being spread amongst building supply companies, county employees (inspections, zoning, etc.), electrical/plumbing contractors, developers, builders, framers, HVAC firms, concrete companies, painters, flooring companies and so much more. And this does not include the economic impact our great real estate team is contributing.

A little over eight weeks ago, the inside of our new building looked like this:

Waffle House Shallotte, NC

Today, after a tremendous effort by a local contractor and their subs, we look like this:

New Office: Carolina PlantationsNew Carolina Plantations Office

We are proud to be a small business that has survived probably one of the most uneasy economic times of our lifetimes. No lie – at times since 2007 when we opened it has been challenging. However, our vision and perseverance won out and America needs to continue rooting for Mr. & Mrs. Small Business, as free enterprise is one of the greatest principles our great country was founded on.

If you have ever owned a firm or managed people, than you know that your success is tied to your strategic partners, and we are no exception. I must first thank my good friends at Inter Coastal Net Designs in Ocean Isle Beach, as we are probably the #1 real estate website in Southeastern NC. www.CarolinaPlantations.com Also very deserving is Carol Holmberg of the Bellamy Law Firm in Shallotte, the finest closing manager in NC! Vince Bacchi with Union Mortgage Group, Laurel Bellamy with Farm Bureau Insurance, Jim Giuffre with National Property Inspections and Bobby Long Surveyors are also reliable professionals.

So on behalf of Haley, Pat, Nancy, Court, Carolyn, Chris, Pam and our business partners, thanks to all of you who have believed in our team for our first 6 years. We are honored that you have trusted us to help you live the crazy life ( “Livin’ la Vida Loca”), and we look forward to seeing everyone at our new office at 4660 East Coast Lane in Shallotte, NC.