NAHB recently unveiled an index that tracks housing markets on the mend, the NAHB/First American Improving Markets Index (IMI). The IMI is intended to draw attention to the fact that housing markets are local and that there are metropolitan areas where economic recovery is underway. The index measures three readily available monthly data series that are independently collected and are indicative of improving economic health. The three are employment, house prices and single family housing permit growth.
For the ninth release 80 markets are currently classified as improving under a conservative examination of local economic and housing market conditions. Among these areas is the Greenville-Mauldin-Easley, South Carolina metropolitan statistical area (MSA).
The health of the Greenville housing market has been due Greenville’s ability to reinvent itself from a large textile town to a growing automotive, logistics and healthcare center. Being half way between Atlanta, GA and Charlotte, NC and located on the busy I-85 corridor has made Greenville a transportation hub with trucking firms and distribution centers all choosing to locate there. In addition, Greenville is also a large regional healthcare center with two major health systems both of which are growing and highly regarded. Lastly, the Greenville area is a major automotive center with not only the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research but is also North American headquarters for BMW and Michelin.
According to home builder Rick Quinn, President of Quinn Satterfield Homes, Inc., “the combination of low property taxes, business friendly policies, affordable housing, our location at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, along with a large, growing and diverse employment base makes us an increasingly desirable place to live. On top of that, our conservative nature prevented us from seeing house prices go way up or come way down.” He went on to say that “the steady flow of retirees moving here to take advantage of the good weather, and many recreational opportunities such as fishing and hiking has also materially helped our housing market as has the limited supply of existing houses.”
According to Matt Vaughn, Branch Manager and Associate Vice President at Brand Mortgage “great amenities and healthcare along with lots of jobs and low taxes have been causing northerners to relocate here after first moving to Florida as they can enjoy a lower cost of living and find good employment opportunities. And that has been augmented with the newly opened Center for Emerging Technologies and the presence of a Lockheed Martin Aircraft and Logistics Center as well as 3M and Honeywell locating at the former Donaldson Air Force Base. What’s scary is that unless there is some quick large-scale development I’m afraid we will run out of finished lots by the end of 2013.” Whatever the causes, house prices have held up well over the past few years. Prices are up 0.7% since the trough in January 2011 and are off less than 6% from their all-time high set in August 2008.
Improving economic conditions have resulted in payroll employment being down just 5.2% from its high set in February 2008 and up by 4.0% since the trough in September 2009. Single family permitting activity is up 3.2% on a seasonally adjusted monthly average basis from the trough set in September 2010. While new homes are being built in many parts of the Greenville MSA, activity has been primarily centered in the City of Greenville, in the northern end of the county near the mountains around Travelers Rest and south of Greenville towards Columbia in Simpsonville.