Originally created 08/01/98

Area housing numbers climb



Residential building in the Augusta area was up 15 percent in June, a recent report showed. The report reflects robust new-home sales and a healthy economy, local real estate experts say.

The report, released Friday by the F.W. Dodge Division of McGraw-Hill, compares the value of residential building permits issued in a five-county, two-state metropolitan area in June compared with the same month one year ago.

The figures are calculated monthly for Columbia, McDuffie and Richmond counties in Georgia and Aiken and Edgefield counties in South Carolina.

June construction increased more than $3.5 million -- from about $24.3 million in June 1997 to about $27.8 million in June 1998, the Dodge report showed.

"They do not surprise me," Blanchard and Calhoun Real Estate Co. vice president Doug Reese said. "Our numbers are way up -- everybody's are."

Mr. Reese attributes the increase to an unusually wet spring and low interest rates. A rainy spring slowed construction, and builders now are trying to catch up, he said.

"As I recall, it really hit all of our builders. They couldn't get inventory up," Mr. Reese said. "The rain just caught everybody. Now they're trying to recapture some of that."

Low interest rates are fueling home sales, which means more homes are being built, he said. The Dodge Report figures are a reflection of a strong national and local economy.

Larry Miller, of Century 21/Larry Miller Realty Inc., said low interest rates not only spur the first-time home buyer to purchase a home, but also encourage homeowners to move into a larger home.

"I think that anytime you have rates 7 percent or lower you have people who have been waiting for years to buy their dream home buying it," he said. "Our industry is interest-rate sensitive."

Mr. Miller predicted that the rates would hold steady for another 6 to 12 months.

Year-to-date figures showed Augusta-area residential construction was up 30 percent from 1997 to 1998. It was about $186.5 million in May and about $141.4 million the same month in 1997.

Total year-to-date building, including nonresidential building, was up about 11 percent.