Spring real estate surge – this year is different

sjones@thesunnews.comApril 25, 2013 

— Lauren and Dan Farrar are among the shoppers in this year’s spring surge of real estate sales.

Unlike others, though, they didn’t start looking for their first home because of improving weather. Rather, said Dan Farrar, the impending end of their rental lease has spurred them into what some Realtors describe as a buyer’s market.

“The prices are great,” said Jessie Kelly, the Farrars’ Realtor, “the interest rates are low.”

Kelly, an agent at Prudential Myrtle Beach Real Estate, and Marvin Heyd, broker in charge at the agency, say that March to June are normally busy times for the area’s real estate market. Heyd added that activity slows down in the hot days of summer and normally picks up again in the fall.

In the spring, he said, the agency expects a 20 percent to 30 percent increase in business. While Don Smith, CEO of Coldwell Banker Chicora Real Estate, agreed that he expects about the same surge each spring, Laura Crowther, CEO of the Coastal Carolinas Association of Realtors, thinks this year’s surge over winter sales may not be as drastic as previous years because January and February were so strong.

Heyd and others said cold weather keeps many of the springtime buyers at home during the winter, and warming days, spring blooms and bright sunshine entice them back out again.

Like the Farrars, Heyd said springtime customers are out to make a purchase.

Dan Farrar said he and his wife saw some good possible homes when they were out with Kelly on Tuesday, and they hope to close on a home by the end of May.

This year’s spring surge is continuing an upward trend Realtors have seen since last fall. Buyers’ confidence has improved from the darkest days of the great recession and they feel that prices may be as low as they will go. And yes, low interest rates also help to loosen home-buying bank accounts.

Interest rates have hovered around historic lows, with the average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage at 3.40 percent, mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday. The average 15-year fixed loan fell to 2.61 percent, the lowest rate since 1991, The Associated Press reported.

Heyd said Prudential Myrtle Beach will average 10 to 15 more contracts per month more than normal during the spring surge, and Kelly said she’s put three homes under contract in the last week alone. Multiple offers are once again part of the game, he and Kelly said.

Smith said that the spring increase in the real estate business is a nationwide phenomenon.

Locally, he added, “This year it’s better than it’s been in a number of years.”

Smith said that Thanksgiving and Christmas are always the slowest time of the year for real estate sales.

Much of the current demand is what he called pent-up, people who normally would have bought their retirement homes earlier, but held off and worked longer than they may have previously because of the economy. Smith said they’ve accepted that their homes won’t fetch as much money as they would have before the stock market plunge but on the other hand are aware that the homes they want along the Grand Strand are cheaper as well.

“All of a sudden,” Smith characterized their reasoning, “it’s time.”

Crowther said the area’s spring surge normally goes from about Easter to Memorial Day. In the past few years, she said, the surge has included more Canadians among the buyers.

This year, the sales volume may be greater, but percent increase of the surge isn’t nearly as much stronger than the previous winter months as it was in 2010-2012. Crowther said the 2010-2012 spring surge averaged about 55 percent increase in closings over the previous winter months in each year.

With two months of this spring under the belt, she said the increase is just 5 percent.

“But,” she said, “January and February were so incredibly strong that (a spring surge) is not showing yet that this spring is going to be that strong.”

Smith said he’s not sure about predictions that the current pick-up in real estate – which some Realtors first began to notice last fall – must come to an end. The increase primarily is due to pent-up demand, a situation some believe must have an endpoint.

Indeed, Todd Woodard, president and owner of SiteTech Systems, which tracks the real estate market, said he expects to see a leveling off of activity in the second half of this year. There will be growth in the future, he said, but it’s likely to be slow and deliberate.

Heyd, on the other hand, sees no slowdown at all.

“We really see this year as the start,” he said. His prediction is that 2014 will be really strong and that 2015 will see the return of a strong and healthy market much like existed in 2005.

Kelly sees things the same way as her boss.

Things are so busy for her now that night and weekend work is part of the routine.

“Now,” she said, “if feels different like it’s going to be consistent.”

Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.

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