Foreclosures can slow Habitat’s rehab work

sjones@thesunnews.comJuly 19, 2013 

— Being left as the holder of a foreclosed home is not something any lender looks forward to, but the situation undoubtedly is worse for Habitat for Humanity than it is for Bank of America.

While BOA can let some of its foreclosed homes stay empty until the market makes them more attractive to buyers, Habitat for Humanity uses the income from the homes it builds and finances to pay for the rehabilitation of older homes that can get people in their own residences faster than building them one from scratch.

Gail Olive, executive director for Horry County Habitat for Humanity, said the nonprofit has recently foreclosed on one of its homes and is in the process of foreclosing two others.

“We have been working with the families for quite a while,” she said of the agency’s efforts to keep people in their homes, but despite the effort some remain either unable or are unwilling to make their monthly mortgage payments.

That’s not the kind of situation Habitat can leave unattended for long. Olive said that other families in a Habitat neighborhood will want to forego their mortgage payments if they see one owner staying in a home without paying.

The loss of the payments from foreclosures, she said, could mean that Habitat won’t have the income to use on rehabbing properties that can become homes for others.

“It does make a difference,” she said of the loss of income from foreclosures. “We have a couple of properties we’re rehabbing and we could use the money there.”

Olive said that Horry Habitat – which has built 110 new homes – did some rehab projects early in its tenure, but then dropped the effort. Within the last year, though, it has been revived, boosted by donations of foreclosed homes from BOA and Chase Morgan.

Olive said the rehabilitation effort in particular needs the income from mortgage payments because donors aren’t as ready to give money and volunteers aren’t as willing to donate their time to rehabbing versus building a new home.

Owners who get into mortgage trouble they can’t get out of can surrender their home in lieu of foreclosure, Olive said, but not all choose that route.

And those who don’t are putting the agency in a place that just doesn’t feel right.

“We can’t afford not to have the payments,” Olive said.

Grand Strand realty tops state data

Pending home sales in South Carolina were up 17.5 percent for the year that ended June 30, according to a new report by the S.C. Association of Realtors.

But the Grand Strand far outperformed the state with pending home sales soaring 29.5 percent from June 2012 to June 2013.

Statewide, the price range with the largest gain was for homes above $300,001, which showed a 23.9 percent increase.

The overall median sales price for single-family homes statewide was up 3.2 percent to $163,100, nearly $12,000 below the $175,000 median single-family home price on the Grand Strand, which was 10.8 percent above June 2012.

As along the Grand Strand, inventory continued to drop statewide, a factor that contributed to the rising prices.

Homebuilding falls nationally

While corresponding numbers for the Grand Strand or South Carolina weren’t available Friday, the Associated Press reported that fewer new home construction starts were recorded by the U.S. Commerce Department in June than in May.

Builders nationally began construction on 836,000 homes in June in a seasonally-adjusted count, which was nearly 100,000 fewer homes than were started in May.

Most of the drop was because apartment construction fell by 27 percent in June from May, according to the report, a situation that may not have played a big part along the Grand Strand as area home construction thus far in the recovery appears concentrated in homes.

June’s home starts, while fewer than May, were still 10 percent above June 2012. And, according to the report, building permits were up 16 percent over last June.

The fall is believed to be just a pause, though.

The National Association of Home Builders reported in June that confidence among its members rose to the highest level since January 2006. Customer traffic and builders’ outlook for single-family home sales over the next six months were at their highest level in at least seven years.

Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.

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