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Midlands homebuyers seeking specific features

Real Estate - Residential
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What appealed to a homebuyer 10 years ago may not be in demand today, as industry experts can attest. Something as simple as home décor has evolved over time, while present-day homebuyers are often looking for quite specific features.

“Ten years ago everybody wanted the dark woods and the dark cabinets and darker granites, and now they are trending toward the lighter, colors, the grays and whites,” said Mandie Anderson, licensed mortgage adviser for Angel Oak Home Loans.

Trends in home amenities go beyond paint schemes and fixtures. Homes are now being built or renovated to accommodate an aging group of people who want to stay in their homes as long as possible. Builders and construction companies are making homes more accessible to people with mobility challenges and are finding these features to be selling points.

“You’ve got what they refer to as zero-entry tile, which doesn’t have a lip so you can roll into the shower if needed,” said Earl McLeod, executive director of the Building Industry Association of Central South Carolina.

At the BIA’s annual tour of homes, the 2019 showcase home was a certified universal living home.

“You’ve got cabinets designed so that they are easier to reach and not so high that they’re inaccessible,” McLeod said. “You’ve got an entryway into the home which does not require steps, so you can get into the home to begin with. You’ve got wider doorways and hallways so that it’s more readily accessible for anybody that might be in a wheelchair.”

While offering amenities that appeal to older homebuyers, McLeod said new construction also is designed to attract younger, more technically savvy buyers with smart homes that offer connectivity.

“They’re certainly more in tune to the technology features that are part of new homes now, in terms of security systems and access to the internet throughout the home and music throughout the home,” he said. “So there’s so many things that are related technology-wise, both internet-related and just for the convenience of homeowners. Even the appliances that you can purchase today for new homes — there are computers on your refrigerator door.”

To keep up with the technology in new homes, electricians need to wire them differently than they did previously. Sometimes even one outlet per wall is not
sufficient.

“Homes built in the 60s or earlier were wired much differently than houses today,” McLeod said. “But now with high-definition TVs, DVRs and computers, they’re wired to accommodate the new technology.”

But McLeod said one thing remains constant in homebuyer demands from age to age: plenty of storage space and rooms that flow into each other.

“You’ve got better storage,” he said. “And people have more clothes than they used to. We all used to get by with one little closet. Well, new homes offer much more. The open floor plans are so much better for entertaining, where they flow one room into the other in open spaces.”

Also in demand in residential real estate in Columbia are affordable homes. As a mortgage adviser, Anderson said many of her clients are looking for homes for less than $160,000, but houses priced below that sell as quickly as they’re listed.

“If the purchase price is $160,000 or below, that’s affordable housing,” she said. “That (mortgage) payment is cheaper than rent anywhere, and those houses are going very fast.”

Anderson said if a house is in good condition, the seller could receive multiple offers.

“I have a board full of people who are prequalified under the $160,000 who cannot find a house because every time they put in an offer, it’s taken within hours.,” she said. “They literally are watching the MLS for any of these properties to pop up.”

Anderson said her company can provide financing through nontraditional means that can be beneficial to self-employed potential buyers, for example. Angel Oak is a non-QM, or non-qualified mortgage, lender, meaning some loans don’t comply with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s rules for a qualified mortgage.

“It allows me the opportunity to help people who don’t qualify traditionally,” Anderson said. “We use bank statements for income, so all the self-employed buyers that I get, when they write off on their tax returns, it’s very different from what they’re receiving because they’re able to write off so many business expenses. We can use their business bank statements as income.”

“They may not qualify for what they’re trying to buy traditionally or conventionally because their tax returns don’t afford them to qualify for enough house. That’s a trend that I’m seeing a lot, is people in that higher price point are looking to qualify for more house.”

Anderson said Columbia, Blythewood and Irmo are extremely low on inventory in the $160,000-and-below range. The people who are interested in them are usually first-time homebuyers or people with limited income who want to be homeowners, not potential owners who want houses for investment rental property.

For potential buyers able to be more flexible with their price point, Anderson said many of her clients are demanding homes in the Northeast Columbia area.

“Everybody wants to buy in Northeast Columbia,” she said. “That’s all I get: ‘I want to live in these two ZIP codes: 29229, 29223.’ Northeast Columbia is all that I’ve been hearing lately.”

Northeast Columbia has been a growing area in the past decade, but Anderson can’t pinpoint why it remains in such high demand. She thinks word-of-mouth may partially explain the trend.

“If it’s popular to live in that Northeast Columbia area or if they’re told that maybe it’s a better area or it has better schools, I think it’s just because they’ve heard that it’s a better area,” she said.

While Northeast Columbia is an example of an increasingly popular market for new homes, McLeod said builders continue to develop land in Lexington County.

“It’s pretty consistent still,” he said. “Really, everywhere in the Lexington area has continued to grow in the new housing market, both sides of Lake Murray and the surrounding areas around the Town of Lexington.”

Based on her professional observations, Anderson believes the Midlands-area residential real estate market has improved from 2018.

“I feel the market is better than it was last year,” she said. “I’m inundated with business right now and everyone is doing well. It’s healthy. The Columbia housing market is very healthy. Our business is booming. We have jobs. Everybody’s working.”

Reach Renée Sexton at 803-726-7546.

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