MYRTLE BEACH — Grand Strand real estate sales jumped in May, an indication that the market is moving in the right direction as inventory decreases, according to local Realtors.
Single-family home sales rose 17 percent in May compared to the same month last year, according to the Multiple Listing Service. Condo sales rose 12 percent last month compared to May 2011, according to the MLS. Cash sales of houses and condos are still holding strong at 49 percent of all sales, said Tom Maeser, a real estate analyst for the Coastal Carolinas Association of Realtors. Maeser said that is a significant benefit because financing is nearly impossible for investors, who make up two-thirds of the market.
Low interest rates coupled with leveled out prices fueled strong sales in May, said Lee Hewitt, broker-in-charge at Garden City Realty.
“We’re still seeing a decrease in inventory, interest rates are low, and activity is still very strong,” Hewitt said.
Mortgage rates have been near or at record lows, keeping home-buying and refinancing affordable, experts say. Last week, the average U.S. rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage was 3.66 percent, the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s.
Buyers have scooped up the best properties, contributing to the decline in inventory, said Don J. Smith, president of Coldwell Banker Chicora Real Estate.
“Better products are being taken out of the market,” he said.
Maeser said the hope is that the area will have increases every month in sales, which is reflective of prices. With low prices, people still see good sales because they know eventually prices will appreciate, Maeser said.
Prices for single-family homes also increased slightly though condo prices took a small dip.
The median price - the price at which half sold for more and half sold for less - of a single-family home was $161,000 in May, up 1 percent from the same month last year, according to the MLS.
“The prices seem to be stabilized,” Smith said.
Maeser said the slight price increase is encouraging and could be a sign of stability, though it will take a few more months to tell.
“I’m hearing now that agents are getting two or three offers now, which is helping build up the price,” Maeser said. “[Properties] can go up the listed price. That’s starting to happen in certain areas.”
Hewitt said that in the Garden City Beach and Murrells Inlet areas, “we’re seeing prices firm up and move up even in the condo market.”
The median price of condos dropped 1 percent, to $108,000, last month when compared to May 2011, according to the MLS.
Smith and Hewitt said there’s this sense that the market has bottomed out.
“We expect continued improvements in the market,” Smith said. “I think there will be a long, steady improvement through the rest of the year.”
Contact JANELLE FROST at 443-2404.