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Charleston Business

Home permits down in Greenville, Charleston, Columbia for April

Jun 14, 2018 12:19PM ● By Chris Haire

By Rishichhibber [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

The number of new privately owned housing permits dropped for South Carolina's three main metropolitan areas in April, but overall the numbers are up from last year. 

According to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, permits have gone down 2.33 percent for Greenville, 4.03 percent for Charleston, and 4.39 percent for Columbia. The only metropolitan statistical area seeing an increase: Florence, which was up 172.22 percent.
Housing starts were down 8.02 percent for the state in April, but up 13.97 percent over last April. New housing permits were also up 29.96 percent for the state year over year, with Greenville at 26.51 percent, Charleston 24.22 percent, and Columbia 11.22 percent.

The number of new post-Great Recession housing starts peaked in 2015 but remain above levels from the end of 2008 through 2014.

The price of homes in South Carolina remains slightly behind the nation as a whole, with both Greenville and Charleston figures increasing in April (up .46 percent and .12 percent respectively,) while Columbia has dropped .14 percent. 

Nationally, privately owned home permits was down 1.8 percent in April, but up 7.7 percent from April 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Single-family starts, meanwhile, were up .9 percent in April. 

In South Carolina, the number of homes on the market dropped 2 percent to 29,142 homes, according to S.C. Realtors' most recent report. Pending sales were also down 2 percent, while new listings were up 7 percent from last year.

The media sales price was also at $205,709.

S.C. Realtors also notes that  homes "are selling more quickly with a decrease in days on market by almost nine percent compared to last year." Statewide, that figure is 83 days, but in the popular Irmo/Ballentine/St. Andrews area of Columbia, they're going as fast as 48 days. 

But while this is good news for sellers and agents, the rising cost of softwood lumber has homebuilders predicting an increase in the price of new homes. 

In a letter from Congress to President Trump urging him to start lumber trade talks with Canada, National Association of Home Builders CEO Randy Noel says that tariffs on imported Canadian lumber will hurt the U.S. industry. 

"The current situation is clearly unacceptable," Noel says. "Tariffs averaging more than 20 percent on Canadian softwood lumber shipments into the U.S. are contributing to rising market volatility and record-high lumber prices that are making it harder for millions of Americans to afford a home."

The price of softwood lumber per 1,000 board feet is up $250 since July 7, 2017.

The rising price of lumber is just one of the potential obstacles the industry is facing. In addition to the rising costs of building materials (including aluminum and steel thanks to tariffs), mortgage rates are rising and the number of skilled labors remain insufficient to meet the market's needs. And with the Trump administration crackdown on illegal immigrants, this limited labor pool is likely to dwindle. 

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has asked the House of Representatives to pass bipartisan legislation that will ensure the protection of our borders and ensure that the immigrant labor pool authorized to work in the U.S. retains this authorization. The Chamber also advocates for proposals that decrease the number of allowed legal immigrants.