• Magazine: Broker network that includes local office cited as top-notch •

An East Cooper operation is part of the second-best real estate franchise in the U.S., as chosen by a national magazine.

Weichert, Realtors-Palmetto Coast, based in Mount Pleasant, is an independently owned and operated associate of Weichert Real Estate Affiliates Inc.

Entrepreneur magazine recently named Morris Plains, N.J.-based Weichert Real Estate Affiliates No. 2 in the real estate category.

The selection was included in the “Entrepreneur 2013 Franchise 500” list, a yearly ranking of America’s top franchise opportunities.

“We are honored to again be recognized by this prestigious ranking,” says Martin J. Rueter, president of the affiliates. “Our advancements as indicated by Entrepreneur are a true testament to the strength of the Weichert brand, our systems and the network of professionals that represent the company around the nation.”

Weichert Real Estate Affiliates became involved in the franchise business in 2001 as a division of Weichert, Realtors. The first affiliated office opened in January 2002.

Three years later, Weichert Real Estate Affiliates was named to Entrepreneur’s “Top 10 New Franchises,” the only real estate organization chosen. Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500 report in 2008 listed the affiliates group in 35th place among the nation’s fastest growing franchises in all categories and in second place among real estate franchises.

Weichert now serves more than 230 markets in 35 states via its affiliates. Attributes include one-stop shopping, relocation outreach, top Internet presence and agent training.

“Our 34th annual Franchise 500 ranking reveals the impact of the newest trends and the industries poised for growth,” Entrepreneur’s website says.

• Metro Charleston comparatively modest in foreclosure volume •

According to a new survey, greater Charleston ranks in the top half of foreclosure rates nationwide but below several other cities in South Carolina.

Foreclosure-Response.org, a joint project of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Urban Institute and the Center for Housing Policy, analyzed figures from September, relying on numbers from LPS Applied Analytics to come up with foreclosure totals for the country’s 366 metro areas.

The Charleston area placed 130th nationwide with a 5.4 percent foreclosure rate — a smaller share that most metro sectors in South Carolina.

The highest shareswere Columbia and Spartanburg, ranking 107 and 108 respectively, at 5.8 percent; Myrtle Beach-North Myrtle Beach-Conway, 113 at 5.7 percent; and Sumter, 127 at 5.5 percent. The areas with the lowest rates of active foreclosures were Greenville-Mauldin-Easley ranking 208 at 4.3 percent; Anderson, 197 at 4.4 percent and Florence, 138 at 5.3 percent.

The highest foreclosure rate among all metro areas was Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, Fla., at 17.8 percent while the lowest was Bismarck, N.D., at 1 percent.

For the 100 largest metro areas, the average foreclosure rate was 6 percent, just off the all-time high of 6.1 percent and an increase from 2009, Foreclosure-Response.org notes.

,At the same time, the rate of mortgages that are 90 days or more delinquent sank to 3.5 percent, down from a peak of 5.5 percent in December 2009. That shows the pool of potential new foreclosures is dwindling.

Among other findings, according to Foreclosure-Response.org:

• The foreclosure inventory is growing. Foreclosure starts have outpaced completions since March 2009, when the group started tracking foreclosures.

• Unemployment is a main problem. Joblessness impacts housing markets when borrowers struggle to make mortgage payments. Distressed housing markets make it more difficult for homeowners to sell their homes to access job opportunities in other areas, according to the organization.

The group did not publicize its source for the foreclosure totals, but the rates tend to be higher than some other researchers such as CoreLogic.

According to the organization, its website provides figures on foreclosures at both the metro area and local levels, as well as information on promising state and local policies for preventing foreclosures and stabilizing communities impacted by foreclosures. For more, visit www.foreclosure-response.org.

• Local brokerage to direct commercial forecast •

Avison Young, a national commercial real estate firm with a local office, will host the Charleston Market Commercial Forecast.

The event will be 7:30 a.m. Feb. 13 at Trident Technical College’s main campus at 7000 Rivers Ave. in North Charleston. It will take place at the campus’ Complex for Economic Development, Building 920.

Breakfast is at 7:30 a.m., and the guest speaker and market presentation 8-9 a.m. The sponsor is Wells Fargo.

Guests must RSVP to attend. The deadline is Feb. 6. Reply to Charlene.aydelotte@avisonyoung.com or call 843-725-7200.

• SNL Financial: South shows strongest home-building tallies •

A swath of states from Texas to Virginia and including South Carolina has posted the best numbers of any region for new-home sales.

The tidbit is among a host of findings in SNL Financial’s latest data dispatch, which came out last month.

SNL Financial says sales of new single-family homes rose both month-over-month and year-over-year, citing figures from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development on Dec. 27.

The seasonally adjusted annual rate in November was 377,000 new-homes sold, up 4.4 percent from the revised October rate of 361,000.

According to Charlottesville, Va.-based SNL Financial, the largest month-over-month increase in new-home sales was recorded in the South, with a 21.1 percent jump between October and November. The weakest region was the West, where new-home sales sank 17.8 percent.

As for year over year in November, the Northeast posted the strongest climb with new-home sales up a whopping 68.8 percent. Only the Midwest saw a downturn, dropping 5.8 percent from last November.

Also in November, the median new-home sales price — which is the midpoint of all new-home sales — was $246,200. The average sales price was $299,700.

In its dispatch, SNL Financial further notes:

• The overall housing market continued to gain strength despite the weakness typically recorded in the fall and winter. Sales increased for new- and existing-homes month-to-month and year-to-year, and the number of foreclosures tumbled.

• Prices showed positive returns in the past year. The 10-city and 20-city composites of the respected S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices rose 3.4 percent and 4.3 percent respectively in October from September. All but one of the places in the 20-city format posted stronger year-to-year returns in October than in September. A dozen cities yielded weaker month-to-month home-price figures, with Chicago dropping 2.8 percent, but the price dips were blamed on the seasonal slowdown in fall and winter.

• David Blitzer, index committee chairman of S&P Dow Jones Indices, says the rising annual price figures, combined with recent data for housing starts and sales, make it “clear the housing recovery is gathering strength.” Housing made up 10 percent of the growth in the third quarter Gross Domestic Product, based on a recent final revision.

• Sales of existing homes increased 5.9 percent countrywide in November compared with a month earlier and shot up 14.5 percent from the previous year, according to the National Association of Realtors in a report that came out Dec. 20. The seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million existing homes sold in November was the highest level recorded since November 2009 at 5.44 million, the NAR says. In addition, the national median existing-home price was $180,600 in November, up 10.1 percent from a year earlier.

• Housing construction tailed off in November, according to the S&P/Case Shiller price index, U.S. Census Bureau and HUD. The groups blamed seasonal weakness. The November rate of 565,000 houses was 4.1 percent below the revised October figure of 589,000, federal government figures show. The Northeast posted the largest month-over-month increase, at 12.2 percent, while the West reported a 15.4 percent decrease. Year over year, the Midwest recorded a 40 percent boost in housing starts, while the Northeast was the only region with a yearly decrease, falling 19.3 percent.

• Foreclosure filings dropped 3 percent in November from the month before and were down 19 percent from the same time last year, based on figures from RealtyTrac on Dec. 13. “The drop in overall foreclosure activity in November was caused largely by a 71-month low in foreclosure starts for the month, more evidence that we are past the worst of the foreclosure problem brought about by the housing bubble bursting six years ago,” says Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. Still, foreclosures continue to “hobble” the U.S. housing market as lenders take possession of properties that began the foreclosure process long ago, Blomquist says.

The dispatch additionally rolled out figures on the leading publicly-traded homebuilders.

D.R. Horton constructed the most homes across America in the third quarter at 5,575 followed by PulteGroup at 4,418 and Lennar Corp. at 3,617. All three companies frame houses in the greater Charleston market. Sixth-ranked Beazer Homes USA, which had 1,608 sales; and seventh-placed Ryland Group at 1,322 also build in metro Charleston.

Pulte posted the highest average sales price among the Charleston area builders at $279,000 followed by Ryland at $264,000, Lennar, $258,000, D.R. Horton, $231,000 and Beazer, $229,000.

• CoreLogic: Charleston metro foreclosure rate drops from 2011 •

By one measure, the share of mortgages that are in foreclosure locally dipped below 4 percent in October, a sign of the housing market’s gradual upturn.

National real estate research firm CoreLogic compiled the foreclosure rates for Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville and dozens of other metro areas using its proprietary information system.

According to the company, the rate of foreclosures in greater Charleston was 3.52 percent, down from 4.11 percent a year earlier. That works out to 352 foreclosures for every 10,000 mortgages, compared with 411 last year. Still, the metro Charleston rate was higher than the 3.06 percent national foreclosure share.

Meanwhile, the mortgage delinquency rate shrank in greater Charleston to 6.41 percent in October from 7.07 percent last year, based on CoreLogic figures. By comparison, the U.S. delinquent loan rate was 6.53 percent in October, down from 7.25 percent a year earlier.

CoreLogic says it has access to 85 percent of the mortgage market. It uses a different data collection source than entities such as Foreclosureresponse.org.

• Financial adviser eyeballs Charleston housing market •

National economic movements could play a role in how real estate reacts in greater Charleston, South Carolina and countrywide this year.

That’s among Brad Rundbaken’s observations in his latest “situation report.”

Rundbaken, of independent registered investment adviser Charles Towne Capital, describes real estate as more or less “a slow moving train” compared with the stock market, giving him more time to tweak the real estate analysis. He says the upcoming fourth quarter 2012 report “should be very interesting.”

Rundbaken says he is concerned about Federal Reserve policies resulting in “boom and bust” cycles for various fields, including real estate, in the past dozen years.

“I know real estate is local; However the engine for the real estate market is the availability of credit,” he says.

“The past and present day policies of our central bank have a ‘cause and effect’ influence on various aspects of the financial markets,” he says.

Rundbaken is also worried about “the debt hole, which our country has dug over the years.” That’s placed legislators “in a precarious position of figuring out how to bring in more taxes and cut spending.”