Home Sales Up 31% in October for Charleston Area

November 12, 2009 | 116 Comments

Call it the first-time homebuyer bump. Charleston-area home sales surged 31 percent to 721 transactions last month as buyers moved to take advantage of a temporary $8,000 federal tax credit that recently was extended. Last October, a total of 549 homes sold, according to the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors.

The 31 percent increase ranks as the largest year-over-year increase in sales since the local real estate market began bottoming out several years ago. But last month’s sales figure is still dwarfed by the number of homes for sale in the region, which stood at 10,631 as of Tuesday.
Buyers were drawn to cheaper home prices in Dorchester and Berkeley counties, which saw the most sales growth. Charleston County homes, which sold at a median home price of $205,000, only saw sales increase by 9 percent.

Overall, the typical home sold last month for $169,631, the lowest price in more than five years. The oversupply of homes – combined with lower-priced distressed properties and a shortage of qualified buyers – have caused that median sales price to tumble by tens of thousands of dollars following the real estate boom.

Jim Grady of Keller Williams Realty said buyers are increasingly picking lower prices over a property’s other characteristics – a shift that has “taken the emotion out of buying.”  His latest clients include first-time buyers, investors and families who have relocated to the Lowcountry for steady, well-paying jobs.
For homeowners who want to sell, listing the home at the cheapest possible price in their neighborhoods is the most effective strategy to attract offers, he said. “You’ve got to be ready to deal or wait,” Grady said.
The local figures were released as the National Association of Realtors reported Tuesday that home prices fell in 123 out of 153 U.S. metro areas compared with the same period a year ago. For Charleston and North Charleston, the median figure slipped 7.5 percent to $195,100.

Lawrence Yun, the group’s chief economist, tied the falling prices around the country to heavily discounted distressed sales, which made up 30 percent of all deals. “The decline in the national median price has moderated recently, and a shrinking supply of unsold inventory suggests we are getting closer to price stabilization in many areas,” he said. “But we need a steady stream of financially qualified buyers to further reduce inventory and get us to a self-sustaining market.”
A glimmer of optimism for new-home sales came from Beazer Homes USA Inc., which is building in five neighborhoods in the Charleston region. It reported its first quarterly profit since 2006 on Tuesday and credited more stable home prices and cost cuts.

Berkeley County: Sales rose 25% from October last year, with 186 homes sold at a median price of $155,000. The median was $169,900 for the same month of 2008.
Charleston County: In the last 30 days, 339 homes sold at a median of $205,000, for a 9% increase compared to October 2008.
Dorchester County: Sales jumped 53% year-over-year, with 177 homes selling at a median price of $152,700. The median a year ago was $167,663.
The Atlanta-based builder also posted an annual increase in new home orders, as low mortgage rates and the $8,000 tax credit helped lure buyers. The company said foot traffic slowed last month as buyers waited to see whether the buying incentive would be extended. That happened last week as Congress extended the credit through next June, as long as the purchaser signs a binding contract by April 30. The program also was expanded to include a $6,500 credit for existing homeowners who buy a new place after living in their current residence for at least five years.”We’ve got a six-month runway here of a tax credit, great affordability and great mortgage rates,” said Ian McCarthy, Beazer’s president and chief executive.

Article by Katy Stech, The Post and Courier, Wednesday, November 11, 2009  The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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