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      Grand Strand new home construction poised for big year

      There's a mini housing boom underway on the Grand Strand. It's not as strong as the bubble of five or six years ago, but one homebuilder says that's not a bad thing.

      Ed Friend, president of Excalibur Construction and incoming president of the Horry Georgetown Home Builders Association, says 2013 is poised to be a best year for home construction in the Myrtle Beach area in at least the past three or four years.

      Friend says some home buyers are still uncertain about the future of the economy, but that's not holding them back.

      "The interest rates being as low as they are and the construction loan rates being as low and competitive as they are, are probably what's moving people the most to go forward right now," Friend said.

      In Myrtle Beach, 114 single family home permits have been taken out in the first five months of this fiscal year, a rate about 3 or 4 more per month than last fiscal year.

      "Tourism has led the way back and hopefully home construction and real estate in general are showing some signs of life," said Myrtle Beach spokesman Mark Kruea.

      Kruea says the Market Common area is where most of the new homes are being built in Myrtle Beach.

      Home construction is still far behind what it was in the mid-2000's, but Friend says, that's not the kind of market the industry would like to return to anyway.

      "I think it would probably be better for the industry as a whole to return to healthy levels, but not necessarily back to those levels that were peaks way above the norm," he said. "But trying to get back to just steady, normal levels will be good."

      Friend says one thing that's changed since the end of the housing bust is that buyers today are more careful and making better decisions about the use of space in their homes.

      "People are just trying to be as smart as they possibly can about the size of the home, about the energy consumption that the home is going to have going forward."

      Friend says the Grand Strand housing market seems to feel slowdowns later than other places around the country and starts coming back sooner than others.

      He thinks Myrtle Beach is probably ahead of the rest of the nation in making a comeback.

      The Coastal Carolina Association of Realtors reports new home sales in November were up 12.6 percent over November of last year.

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