Myrtle Beach area real estate continues slow climb in January

sjones@thesunnews.comFebruary 26, 2013 

— Real estate sales showed a continued upward trend in January, with a 10.3 percent boost versus a year earlier in sales of single family homes and a 11.9 percent increase for condominiums.

The median sales price for condos also climbed 4.8 percent to $98,000 compared to January 2012, and fell 3.1 percent for single family homes to $155,000.

But there was very little bad news in the report prepared by SiteTech Systems, said Laura Crowther, chief executive officer of the Coastal Carolinas Association of Realtors.

Indeed, besides increased sales and prices, the report showed a continued reduction in the inventory of unsold homes and condos on the market, fewer days that homes and condos are listed for sale before they sell, an increase in the percent of list price that was paid for those properties that sold and more people with a median household income to qualify for median-priced homes with the current interest rate.

“I don’t see anything (that’s) ‘watch out’,” Crowther said.

If there is one thing the market needs, said Dennis G. Blanton, senior sales executive for Coldwell Banker Chicora, it’s that banks would be friendlier to people who wanted to buy in the condotel market.

“That would be helpful,” he said.

Crowther noted that homes and condos now are selling at a high percentage of the list price – 94.7 percent for single family homes and 93.8 percent for condos. The percentage is up for condos from January last year, but fell by 0.8 percent for single family homes.

Crowther said a prime reason for the high percentage is that sellers have been pricing their homes more realistically than in the past. But a drop in inventory likely plays a part as well. Prices tend to rise when fewer homes are on the market.

“I think it’s taken a bit of time to settle in,” she said of the realization on the part of sellers that their homes just won’t sell now for what they think they are worth.

But at the same time, Blanton said he sees unrealistic buyers as well, explaining that they expect a bigger inventory, lower prices and a longer period of time to make up their minds.

To the contrary, he said he’s been seeing some non-distressed homes getting multiple offers.

He also said he’s seeing buyers from areas – Atlanta, Florida, the Midwest – where residents haven’t relocated to the Grand Strand in the past. Many buyers here have traditionally the Northeast who are attracted to the lower cost of living. And, yes, he said he’s seeing more retirees among his clients this year compared to last.

The Realtors association also gets a monthly report from 10K Marketing that details monthly activity in Horry and Georgetown municipalities and in Carolina Forest and Socastee.

Those reports showed the greatest climb in closed sales for all properties in January versus a year earlier was 71 percent in Carolina Forest, which also saw a 19.9 percent drop in inventory. The development recorded a 10.7 percent jump in sales of single family homes and 11.9 percent increase in the median price to $155,0000 (the area’s median price as well) and $81,250 for condos.

Those same figures comparing this January’s activity to January 2012 for other municipalities were:

•  Myrtle Beach, 28.8 percent increase in closed sales and 18.7 percent drop in inventory.

North Myrtle Beach, 6.1 percent increase in closed sales and 24.4 percent drop in inventory.

•  Conway, 6.5 percent drop in the number of closed sales and 8.2 percent drop in inventory.

•  Socastee, 8.3 percent drop in closed sales and 17.5 percent drop in inventory.

•  Garden City/Murrells Inlet, 39.3 percent drop in closed sales, 6.9 percent drop in inventory.

Pawleys Island/Litchfield, no change in closed sales, 6.6 percent drop in inventory. (It should be noted that the change in closed sales is for all properties. In Pawleys/Litchfield the lack of change is an average of a 27.3 percent increase in single family home closings and a 30 percent drop in condo closings)

•  Georgetown, 12.5 percent drop in all closed sales, 6.1 percent rise in inventory.

Rod Smith, Chicora’s director of general brokerage, said that while there is some competition for some homes and some investors even flipping homes, the general market is still in what he calls “the sloppy bottom. You walk along and sink little, then you get a little bit of solid ground, then you sink.”

No one knows when the prices of single family homes will start to climb again, but for right now, they’re glad to be out of the doldrums.

“Things that are supposed to be up are up,” Blanton said, “the things that are supposed to be down are down.”

Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.

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