•Jackson: Local real estate market’s low point “come and gone”•

Look for the Charleston area housing market to remain upbeat as demand quickens and consumers grow more confident, a local agent and former appraiser says.

“We’re half way through 2013, and one thing is abundantly clear: The bottom of the Charleston real estate market has come and gone,” says Bart Jackson, buyers’ representative with Charleston Preferred Properties.

“The market stabilized nicely throughout 2012, and since January of this year, consumer confidence and buying activity have surpassed most experts’ predictions,” he says.

As a result of the strengthening market, Charleston Preferred Properties’ agents are busy helping buyers, Jackson says.

The buyers rep recently found the time to study the real estate numbers for the first half of 2013 and compare them with previous years.

“I saw some very encouraging trends,” he says. According to Jackson:

• Single-family home transactions in the first six months of the year topped 6,000, a 28 percent jump from the same period last year. Close to 4,000 properties changed hands in 2012, up 6 percent from the prior year. “If activity continues at the current pace, I predict we could see more than 10,000 single family detached properties sell in 2013.”

• Median sales prices rose more than 10 percent during January through June of this year compared with the first half of 2012. Specifically, the midpoint transaction for single-family detached homes in metro Charleston shot up to $225,000 in the second quarter from $203,000 a quarter earlier.

• Greater Charleston’s inventory of single-family houses has dropped steadily in the past five years. Peaking at close to 8,000 listings in 2008, the midyear inventory had dropped to 5,500 houses as of this year.

• Home demand has steadily picked up steam, with “more and more” buyers entering the local real estate market. “With many popular neighborhoods and subdivisions showing distinct shortages of available properties, we will most likely see continued increases in sales prices for the rest of this year and into 2014 if this level of demand continues,” Jackson says.

Likewise, metro Charleston’s reinvigorated real estate market has triggered a “revival” in new construction locally. “The builders who did survive the downturn are now literally thriving,” Jackson says. It’s involved both small and large builders, “including a number who are new to the region.” Builders scour for available lots, and many frame houses “as fast as they can to keep up with this new overnight demand.”

Jackson also cited another accolade for the Charleston area this summer. Travel + Leisure readers voted Charleston the “Top City in the U.S. and Canada” in the Travel + Leisure 2013 World’s Best Awards.

The readers picked six local hotels among the top lodging spots: Charleston Place, Market Pavilion, Wentworth Mansion, Planters Inn, French Quarter Inn and The Sanctuary hotel on Kiawah Island.

“For those of us lucky to live here, we can just sit back and enjoy this world-famous city we call home,” Jackson says.

•The Sustainability Institute’s ReThink marks first year•

A Charleston group that regularly meets at watering holes to socialize and learn about businesses that embrace ecofriendly design is marking its first anniversary.

The Sustainability Institute’s ReThink will celebrate its initial year 5:30-7:30 p.m. Sept. 4 at Mixson Bath & Racquet Club, 2750 Avenue B North in North Charleston.

Interested people can get in free as a member of The Sustainability Institute; otherwise, the event costs $15. Registration is required for the September ReThink as space is limited.

Básico Bar is providing local bites while Allagash Brewing Co. supplies craft beer. Games at the club include bocce and racquetball.

Attendees will receive an exclusive tour of the Mixson facility while earning a sneak peak at the year ahead and a glimpse back.

Básico, a modern take on a traditional tacqueria (taco bar), features seasonal fare that is locally grown and produced, according to ReThink. The eatery at Mixson showcases garden beds, brings in local meat and seafood and concocts hand-crafted cocktails.

According to ReThink, the Mixson facility “offers up an alternative to the traditional swim and social club. More loose-tie than black-tie, members are free to sully their tennis whites without fear of retribution.” The club, it says, encourages “badminton-induced grass stains and impromptu poolside dance parties.”

Nationally known Lake Flato architectural firm, which specializes in sustainable design, mapped out a heated, saltwater pool; custom water features for kids; nine private cabanas; a wellness center; and a laid-back restaurant at the Mixson club, according to the Sustainability Institute.

The ReThink series gives people a chance to “hang out with fellow sustainability-lovers, eat, drink and learn about a local venture.” It meets every month at a different location and invites a different business each time.

Its sponsor, The Sustainability Institute, bills itself as an award-winning nonprofit that seeks to empower South Carolinians to conserve energy and reduce environmental impact at home and on the job.

•Places Real Estate adds homegrown Realtor•

A veteran real estate agent born in Charleston recently signed on with a specialty brokerage that focuses on “signature residential properties” in the Lowcountry.

Frank Thornhill lands with Places Real Estate as a sales associate. He’s spent more than 15 years in the real estate profession helping clients buy and sell luxury homes, waterfront properties, land and country estates throughout greater Charleston, according to the agency.

“I am excited to join Places and bring together my experiences and the expertise and experience of Places’ team members,” Thornhill says.

Places Real Estate specializes in high-end houses and properties in the Mount Pleasant, East Islands, West Ashley and downtown Charleston markets.

Thornhill, a 1995 graduate of Clemson University, has been active in the Lowcountry working with his father in the real estate business.

“In addition to his experience in residential home and land sales, Frank has a good understanding of the key properties and markets in his hometown,” says Chris Anderson, broker-in-charge of Places Real Estate.

“His experience as a boat captain and fishing guide provide him an unparalleled understanding of waterfront properties and a different viewpoint of the offerings of the Lowcountry,” Anderson says.

A team of experienced Realtors founded Places Real Estate, which is based in Mount Pleasant’s Old Village with offices on Pitt and Hibben streets.

The company says its goal is “to provide a wealth of knowledge and breadth of experience to discriminating buyers and sellers.” For more information, visit Places Real Estate online at www.scplaces.com.

•Lowcountry housing somewhat affordable for travel industry employees•

Staff of tourism-related businesses that live “paycheck to paycheck” would fare a bit better in metro Charleston than the nation as a whole finding a place to live.

That’s based on figures in a new report from advocacy group the Center for Housing Policy.

“One of the most overlooked aspects of this recovery is that for many workers, incomes are not rebounding in step with local housing markets,” says Maya Brennan, senior research associate with the housing policy organization.

She’s co-author of a report released alongside the new housing affordability figures. The housing numbers are nationwide and for 207 metro areas including Charleston.

“Even in a strong sector like travel and tourism, wages have not kept pace with the rising costs of renting or homeownership,” she says.

The report, “Paycheck to Paycheck 2013: A Snapshot of Metropolitan Housing Affordability for Travel and Tourism Workers,” zeroes in on five tourism jobs: housekeepers, wait staff, auto mechanics, front desk managers and flight attendants.

Of these professions, only one – flight attendants – possesses a high enough average wage to afford the mortgage on a median-priced home in the U.S. Housekeepers and wait staff, meanwhile, can’t afford the typical rent on either a one- or two-bedroom apartment in any metro area, the report says.

The study came out in August because it focuses on workers in occupations that are central to summer vacations. Many Americans hope to squeeze in a trip before school starts in much of the country, the Washington, D.C.-based think tank says.

In the three categories tallied by metro area, greater Charleston is most affordable in terms of rents, where the $879 per month fair market rent for a two bedroom apartment placed 93rd lowest. It’s less costly that the $977 national average but topped South Carolina cities.

By contrast the Lowcountry landed on the pricey side in housing costs, ranking 57th highest in the country and steepest in the state with a $190,000 median home price compared with $184,000 for the nation as a whole.

The income needed to qualify to buy a home in the Charleston area increased 3.8 percent in first quarter 2013 from a year earlier, $50,412 from $48,575. The region wound up 72nd highest and trailed the 6.7 percent jump nationwide.

Elsewhere in South Carolina, Columbia placed highest in the increase in qualifying income, up 5.6 percent to rank 62nd. Greenville was most affordable, placing 139th with a 2.7 percent drop in income necessary to buy a decent house.

Spartanburg sported the most attractive home prices at $115,500, standing in 166th spot, and in rental rates of $652 a month to place 198th.

Key findings of the report, the center says, include:

• Buying a home is unaffordable in much of the U.S. for four of the five travel workers studied. In nearly 40 percent of the metro areas, front desk managers and auto mechanics could not afford the monthly mortgage payments for a median-priced home. For low-income travel workers, such as housekeepers and wait staff, the figure was more than 95 percent. At the same time, just 12 percent of the metro areas were unaffordable to flight attendants.

• Lower-income travel workers face unaffordable rents at typical wages. Housekeepers and wait staff in most metro areas couldn’t even afford a one-bedroom apartment.

• Certain vacation destinations face housing affordability challenges for its travel workers. Those unaffordable metro areas, concentrated in the Northeast and West Coast, include Suffolk-Nassau, N.Y., where the Hamptons are located; Barnstable, Mass., home of Cape Cod including Hyannis; and Ocean City, N.J., with a host of southern New Jersey shore towns. Also cited were metro Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, San Francisco and New York.

• Travel workers saw more places with homes they could swing financially in 2013 compared with 2012, although there were fewer affordable houses in markets that saw rebounding prices. In some places, the gains were modest. As an example: auto mechanics could afford to buy a home in a dozen cities that had not been affordable last year, yet in five metro areas, median home prices moved out of their price ranges.