Beach building boom: Why COVID-19 has not slowed home construction on the Grand Strand | News

 Beach building boom: Why COVID-19 has not slowed home construction on the Grand Strand | News

You may have seen it in your neighborhood or elsewhere in the city: new homes popping up, seemingly in an instant.

While still impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, Grand Strand home sales continue to surge, fueling a demand for construction workers and highlighting the interest in an area without the restrictive lockdowns seen in other parts of the country.

“I would say clearly the spring market is typically when things really pick up and we tend to be really busy,” said Renny Diedrich with RE/MAX Southern Shores, president of the Coastal Carolina Association of Realtors (CCAR). “We tend to be busy all through the summer. … When COVID hit and everyone was on a tight lockdown, our business had to change just like every other industry.”

A seller might put a home on the market and remove it, perhaps due to nervousness or another reason. Diedrich said around May or so, when things began to open back up, “our business took off.”

“It hasn’t stopped,” she said. “We have a huge influx [of homebuyers] from the North, of course, because they clearly had tighter restrictions than we ever saw. I think people are really in that mindset of: ‘You’re going to lock me in? I’m going to be somewhere I want to be.’”

Yet some buyers may have always wanted a second home or beach house.

“We’re very fortunate, clearly, in our area,” Diedrich said. “We’ve got amazing weather, you can golf year-round if you’re a golfer, our cost of living is low, our tax base is low. And so, when you think about do you want to be cooped up in a small little apartment or do you want to live your life in an area where you have great features. … People are just sick of waiting.”

South Carolina is also seeing record numbers when it comes to the number of Realtors.

CCAR, which serves Horry, Georgetown and surrounding counties, has increased its membership to more than 4,200, “which is significant.”

With the demand for homes comes a need for construction. That hasn’t changed along the Grand Strand.

“In my particular circumstance, sales slowed down a little bit,” said Jason Repak, president of Hudson Builders and vice president of the Horry Georgetown Homebuilders Association. “But honestly, we’ve had such a backlog that it created a good opportunity for us to catch up on the stuff that we already had in our pipeline. Now, we’re kind of getting to the end of that runway, and we’re starting to have leads come back in.”

Many of Repak’s colleagues in the industry are booked well into next year, he said, “and the demand has stayed really strong.”

That’s also true for Hudson Builders. While there’s certainly room on its 2021 calendar, Repak said “we absolutely have work to do for the next six to eight months.” He said the home building industry in particular is one that offers high-paying careers.

“These are good paying jobs available for people that are ready and willing to learn and work and grow,” Repak said. “It’s a great opportunity to be part of the economic resurgence of our area.”

It’s also a field that should be around for a long time.

“While a lot of our economy has really been hit hard, we continue to see strong demand and strong growth in our home building industry and home sales in general,” he said.

There’s a need for skilled labor across the entire spectrum of construction, whether it’s concerning air conditioning, electrical work, plumbing, carpentry as well as painting, tile-setting and installing drywall.

“The entire spectrum continues to need … workforce development,” Repak said, “and to attract additional workers into that field.”

There’s tremendous growth forecast for this area.

“We need workers to help fulfill those needs and help fill that consumer demand,” Repak said.

As for who’s closing on homes, it isn’t just transplants from the North. It’s also other people familiar with the Grand Strand or locals who Diedrich said are “just making their spaces work for them.”

The pandemic’s effect on day-to-day lives could play a part. Many are working from home, and students are attending school virtually.

 “Right now, people are like, ‘My house doesn’t work for me,’” Dietrich said. “So now, it’s like, I have to make a change. I have to make this living environment work for me.”

Said Repak: “The work from home transition that has happened in the last six months has opened up our market to so many people that would want to live and work here based on the quality of life.” 

Oftentimes folks who vacation in a certain area enjoy that community and start to get comfortable with it. They know where the shops and restaurants are, along with other spots.

Different communities have different feels, and interested homebuyers can choose what’s best for them.

“It’s depending on the price point and where you want to be,” Diedrich said.

One can typically save money by living farther from the coast or even acquire more land for the same price tag.

Diedrich even noted that some folks, including people from northern states, may not mind driving a little while to get to the beach.

You could also get a downtown feel in a place like Conway, not just in Myrtle Beach.

“Do you want to be married to your house?” Diedrich said. “Some people do, some people don’t.”

Though single-family homes continue to be the most popular option, there are also multi-family residences, townhomes and condos being built, too.

“People don’t necessarily want to have to worry about taking care of a yard or the exterior of a building,” Repak said.

There’s a heavy demand for new construction and custom builds.

Repak said there’s been a call for remodels, as folks want to modernize their homes a bit.

In mid-October, CCAR reported four straight months of increased closing when it released data for September.

Though there’s usually a slowdown in September as kids go back to school, this year has been different, with pending sales of single-family homes increasing by 89.1% compared to September 2019 and 70.7% for condos. Additionally, closed sales of single-family homes rose 22% compared to September 2019 and 31.3% for condos.

Diedrich noted other reasons why someone might choose a new home, noting one can pay less than 3% interest on a 30-year-mortgage.

Even if someone wasn’t going to move right away, that person could purchase a house with a low interest rate and go there on vacation or rent it out.

“They’ve got options,” Diedrich said.

While officials noted strong sales in this area, March through October of this year saw a dip in single-family home permits approved in Myrtle Beach (312) compared to those same months last year (360), according to numbers provided by the city.

For now, North Myrtle Beach, Forestbrook and Carolina Forest are local communities that have seen new development recently, in addition to the S.C. 90 corridor.

The Grande Dunes area on Myrtle Beach’s north end is one that’s also witnessed a lot of growth of late.

Repak also noted quite a bit of development occurring in the Loris and Longs areas.

“If there is a piece of property that is developable, then you’re seeing development on it,” he said.

Obviously, there’s a finite amount of land that can be built on.

Places on the South Strand, for example, have limited land left to develop.

“It’s all where the builder can find the land,” Diedrich said. “At the end of the day, that’s what it comes to.”

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