MYRTLE BEACH — More single-family homes were sold in Horry County in August in at least seven years, including the last of the boom days in 2006.
A report by SiteTech Systems showed that 524 single-family home sales were closed during August, topping the roughly 500 homes sold in March 2006. While still registering spring and summer surges since then, the market dropped steadily and bottomed at just 109 sales in January 2009.
Unlike past years, this year’s sales have risen steadily through the winter.
“Honestly I always expected growth,” said Todd Woodard, SiteTech owner. “I didn’t expect this pace.”
But Woodard and others believe the pace will level off and likely drop some in the winter months, as is normal.
Marvin Heyd, president of Prudential Myrtle Beach Real Estate, and Don Smith, president of Coldwell Banker Chicora Real Estate, agreed but said the September activity continues to be strong.
“Even this month has been great so far,” said Heyd, who expects growth to continue through November before the winter drop.
Smith said his weekly reports for September are good, but he wouldn’t be surprised if the market began slowing after October.
Rob Salvino, an economist at Coastal Carolina University, and Woodard said the pace of sales this year likely is driven by the Grand Strand’s relatively low prices and a rising, but still low mortgage interest rate. The average rate on the 30-year loan is at 4.57 percent, just below the two-year high of 4.58 percent reached Aug. 22, The Associated Press reported.
Epp Lee, a Realtor with Scalise Realty at North Beach Plantation, said that buyers may be motivated to buy now when they figure how much less home their money would buy at 6 percent interest.
“That’s a very real consideration,” he said.
Like the others, Salvino doesn’t think the current pace is sustainable, but he noted that sales along the Grand Strand are up more than other areas both statewide and nationally. And while he also sees the pace slowing, he doesn’t see a significant drop unless something unforeseen takes place.
“There is nothing to signify that it’s going to drop off,” he said.
He and Woodard said they don’t believe the current trend is indicative of a bubble. Both noted that prices – the median was $185,000 for single-family homes in August – are nowhere near the bubble levels. Woodard said noticeably higher prices could slow buying, and Salvino said he would worry about a local bubble if prices returned to the highs of 2006 within a year or two.
Heyd said inquiries to his firm are up 20 percent to 25 percent in the last 60 days and believes some of the pace is the result of a better housing market in the Northeast, where many of the Grand Strand’s buyers come from.
He said he’s attended many classes that predicted this year would be the turning point for real estate sales. Additionally, he said he learned that in 2015, prices should be at the same level as they were in 2005.
Smith said he believes the pace is because of built-up demand in part, but he hopes it also means that people are gaining confidence that there will be future appreciation of their home purchases.
He said the biggest obstacle Realtors faced in the down years was fear that a home purchase would be a bad investment.
Some areas are doing better than others, Woodard pointed out.
“In the areas where homes are being sold, you could almost say the demand is outpacing supply,” he said.
Sales are strongest in Carolina Forest, Forestbrook, Socastee and The Market Common in Myrtle Beach, he said. The farther west you travel, the slower the pace of sales.
But even though he expects the same winter slowdown as the others, he expects 2013 to end with 20 percent growth over 2012.
Woodard said that would beat growth in 2006, “which is the highest single-family level we’ve ever had.”
Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765