Anyone who has been in Bryan County any length of time has heard the adage that real estate drives the economy. That’s still true, although signs of change can be seen.
The Richmond Hill Planning and Zoning Department, for example, issued 52 single-family building permits in 2013, according to Scott Allison, the city’s director of planning and zoning.
Through the first two months of 2014, 29 single-family building permits have been issued in the city, Allison said. Pro-rated, that could mean upwards of 140 single-family permits issued this year, although the planning director doesn’t think the totals will be near that high.
“I think we should see more than 100 single-family building permits issued in 2014,” he said. “I’m cautiously optimistic. The city seems ready for a very good year from a new construction standpoint. Single-family houses should do very well. But how many? We’ll have to wait and see.”
The city issued 332 building permits in 2013 including 15 commercial permits, 21 multifamily permits, one manufactured home permit and nine swimming pool permits.
New housing starts in the Pembroke area are stagnant, although an improving economy could jumpstart that area, as well.
As further evidence that single-family construction permits in Richmond Hill should continue to increase, Allison said that the new Creekside residential developments on Brisbon Road should ultimately add about 70 single-family homes and 52 townhomes to the city’s housing inventory.
Additionally, 84 single-family homes will be built in new developments in Richmond Hill Plantation off Timber Trail Road.
Local agent Cecilia Bird agreed that real estate conditions should be favorable for new and existing home sales in the county.
“The real estate market is looking up for 2014, according to the Georgia Association of Realtors,” Bird said. “In Richmond Hill, we are all anticipating a very good year for the housing market. We have seen a slower start than anticipated. But myself, as well as the National Association of Realtors and the Georgia Association of Realtors attribute that to the unusual winter weather that we have had across the region.
“Even with that, our stats are a little stronger than this time last year. Everything is pointing toward a very successful year in real estate. I never tire of hearing ‘Richmond Hill is the place to live.‘”
New housing starts in South Bryan should also continue to rise, with WaterWays Township adding new single-family homes.
Those new housing starts have a trickle-down effect on the local economy, said First Bank of Coastal Georgia’s Derrick Smith, who is also the vice chairman of the Development Authority of Bryan County.
“Many people don’t realize that the paychecks the contractors and subcontractors get when working on new homes in Richmond Hill often stay in our community,” Smith said. “They use that money to buy groceries, pay rent, buy gas, etc. New construction of all types really benefits everyone in our community. There is just more movement of money.”
From a banking standpoint, things are also looking up, according to Smith.
“Deposits are up. Loan demand is up. That includes new and existing homes, custom homes, small buildings and commercial demand,” he said.
Home loans are one of the best indicators of an improving and vibrant economy, he said, and demand is up this year over the same time last year.
Read more in the Feb. 26 edition of the News.