In the years ahead when Realtors look back on 2013, they may see it as the year they knew there’d be life after the Great Recession.
Things actually began getting better in late 2012, but there was still an “unless” quality to the market until well into 2013. Yeah, they’d say, things are better and it looks like they’re going to stay that way unless such-and-such happens.
Now that’s changed.
“I think it would have to be something borderline catastrophic to knock this thing off the track,” said Epp Lee, a Realtor with Scalise Realty.
Lee and others are not looking at a 2014 market with runaway sales and price growth, but more a gradual increase in both. They also see interest rates rising moderately, but at a small enough increase to stimulate the market rather than drive buyers away.
Fixed rates on a 30-year mortgage are about 4.39 percent. Mortgage rates have risen about a full percentage point since hitting record lows roughly a year ago.
Laura Crowther, CEO of the Coastal Carolinas Association of Realtors, sees a modest recovery compared to the early 2000s, when the market was heating up to inflate the bubble that began to deflate in 2006.
“We might see a moderate increase in interest rates,” she said.
Roger Grigg, president of Leonard, Grigg & Associates, said 2013 was the year when attitudes changed.
“Fear is gone,” he said. “People are now starting to talk about appreciation.”
As nice as the increased business was in 2013, it wasn’t evenly distributed throughout the Grand Strand.
For instance, while North Myrtle Beach maintained its spot as having the highest average prices for listed homes, the Carolina Forest area saw the greatest climb in sales prices during 2013. And while the highest numbers of homes were sold east of the Intracoastal Waterway, Conway saw the biggest growth in the numbers sold.
Overall, said Todd Woodard, president of SiteTech Systems, 2013 marked the first year since 2008 when both price and numbers of sales climbed over the previous year. Prices of single-family homes rose by about 6 percent for the area as a whole while sales in 2013 were up just shy of 20 percent. Condo sales and prices also climbed, but at a lower rate.
“Most of 2013 was a strong year with double digit growth,” Woodard said.
Looking ahead, 2014 should start off with slower growth in the overall economy, which will increase through the year so that it will feel significant by the third quarter, Clemson economist Bruce Yandle told the Coastal Carolinas Realtors association at its economic outlook conference Monday.
He said that South Carolina has the fifth fastest growing economy among the 50 states and that it is seeing the fifth highest population growth rate, both indicators that the future should be bright.
“Ultimately,” Grigg said, “there will be a shortage of [available houses].”
And that is when developers like him step into the picture. He’s already begun work on a new subdivision in Barefoot Resort and along S.C. 9 and could restart some mothballed projects this year.
He said an environmental consultant said he was busier in December assessing developable land than he had been in all the rest of 2013.
Grigg said he’s expecting real estate to see its busiest year since 2007.
Woodard said he doesn’t think 2014 growth will be as strong as 2013, but it’ll still be good. He expects prices to hold steady when compared to 2013.
“It’s still very affordable,” he said of the Grand Strand market, “and it’s a good place to live.”
Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.