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Brunswick real estate activity builds

SHALLOTTE, N.C. - Some Brunswick County real estate agents say business has picked up in the past couple of weeks, but they don't know yet whether it's a blip or a trend.

"We're starting to see buyers come through," said Mike Blandino, the agent in charge of Sloane Realty's Sunset Beach office.

Alan Holden said business at his four Brunswick County Remax offices the last weekend in March was the best agents have seen in eight months. There were more calls, more inquiries and more walk-ins, he said.

"I think there is a lot of pent-up demand out there," Holden said.

Holden, president of the Brunswick County Association of Realtors, said Brunswick's real estate downturn began as a "little cloud on the horizon" in late 2005. The cloud thickened through 2006 as real estate sales plummeted in other parts of the country, and the fallout affected Brunswick County.

While there was a slowdown locally, Holden said, 2006 was bad only in comparison with the banner year of 2005. Compared with 1999-2004, though, he said 2006 looked pretty good.

Blandino said that current activity looks to him as though things are returning to normal.

"I'm hoping I'm reading it right," he said.

The association continued to post strong membership and application numbers through the slowdown, Holden said. Some members have left the association, but Holden said those were because they retired or moved elsewhere.

Blandino said mortgage brokers tell him their business is also picking up.

"If properties are priced right," he said, "they are selling."

Holden said that the dismal home market in the Northeast may be holding back sales in Brunswick as buyers can't buy here until they sell their homes there.

"Times are extremely tough in other parts of the country," he said.

The customers Holden's talking with are sick and tired of bad news about the economy and other things, and are beginning to think things might not be as bad as some are saying. And while prices are important, Hoden said he sees no trend of falling prices.

Still, things such as dire hurricane forecasts and the interest rate can affect buyers' mindset and therefore sales, he said.

Neither Holden nor Blandino could say whether the current activity amounts to a trend.

"It might be just a spike," Holden said. But he's excited he's now seeing more positives than negatives.

president of the Brunswick County Association of Realtors