Real estate prices rose in August, sales jump for fourth consecutive month in Myrtle Beach area

jfrost@thesunnews.comSeptember 26, 2012 

— Grand Strand real estate prices jumped in August, an indication that consumer confidence is building and inventory is declining, according to local Realtors.

The median price – the price at which half sold for more and half sold for less – of a single-family home was $166,000 in August, up 3 percent from the same month last year, according to the Multiple Listing Service.

The increase in price is a “further indicator that there is more consumer confidence and that inventory of homes is starting to decline,” said Rod Smith, director of general brokerage for Coldwell Banker Chicora Real Estate.

Consumer confidence nationwide rose this month to the highest level since February, bolstered by a brighter outlook for overall business conditions and hiring, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.

The Conference Board said Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index rose to 70.3 - up from 61.3 in August, which was revised higher. It is also the highest reading since February, when employers added 259,000 jobs and many thought the recovery was strengthening, according to The Associated Press.

The reading is still below 90, a level that indicates a healthy economy. The index hasn’t been that high since December 2007, AP reported.

In addition to high consumer confidence, the Grand Strand’s inventory has dropped.

As of Tuesday, the area’s inventory was 5,489 listings for single-family homes, down from 5,718 listings at the end of last year, according to the MLS. The inventory was 4,487 listings for condos, down from 5,039 listings on Dec.31, according to the MLS.

While the inventory declined, prices rose in August likely because lower-end foreclosures were sold, not necessarily because the overall market is improving, said Tom Maeser, a real estate analyst with the Coastal Carolinas Association of Realtors. Also, there is an increase in new construction - usually a higher-priced product - which could be helping increase the price, Maeser said.

Although single-family home prices increased, condo prices dropped.

The median price of a condo was $101,000 in August, down 2 percent from the same month last year, according to the MLS.

Condo prices are down “because so much of the products here are condotels for which it is extremely difficult to get financing. It is not readily available,” Smith said. Condotels are condominium units that are handled like luxury hotels.

While condo prices dropped, overall sales rose in August for the fourth consecutive month.

Single-family home sales jumped 16 percent in August compared to the same month in 2011, according to the MLS. Condo sales jumped 25 percent last month compared to August 2011. Cash sales -- mostly condos- are still holding strong at 49 percent of all sales.

“I think we will continue to see a slow but steady improvement,” Smith said about sales. “Some inventory is taken off the market, financing is firming up and we’re seeing multiple offers. Overall, we’re doing much better.”

Contact JANELLE FROST at 443-2404.

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