Charleston home sales up 9% in March, prices rise
March home sales volume for the Charleston region jumped more than 9 percent from a year ago, the latest sign that the residential market is on the mend, new figures show.
Home sales breakdown
How March home sales stacked up by county, from largest to smallest. Figures are preliminary and do not include sales of homes outside the counties that were credited to the Charleston Multiple Listing Service:
Charleston: 498 homes sold at a median price of $218,450. In March 2011, 435 homes sold at a median price of $222,000.
Berkeley: 211 homes sold at a median price of $162,465. In March 2011, 187 homes sold at a median price of $164,910.
Dorchester: 155 homes sold at a median price of $170,000. In March 2011, 165 homes sold at a median price of $154,500.
Source: Charleston Trident Association of Realtors
The Charleston Trident Association of Realtors released a preliminary report Tuesday showing that 899 homes changed hands though its Multiple Listing Service last month as spring buying activity bloomed early for the industry. The median price climbed to $182,000, up 9 percent from February and 3 percent higher than March 2011.
“Sales activity has been consistently increasing at a healthy and sustainable level for over a year now, and this is the busiest March we’ve seen since 2007, which makes for a very encouraging start to the spring buying season,” said Herb Koger, the association’s president and an agent with Carolina One Real Estate. “The warm weather has probably helped get buyers going a little earlier this year, along with the urgency being created by our declining inventory.”
The group’s Multiple Listing Service database showed that 6,461 homes were being actively marketed to buyers as of Tuesday. Based on the estimated 2,064 homes that have been sold since Jan. 1, it would take more than 10 months to exhaust that stock if no new inventory were added. Many experts consider a six-month supply to be ideal.
Strong sales upticks were reported last month on Daniel Island, outer West Ashley, Folly Beach, downtown Charleston’s historic district and Wild Dunes Resort, which is primarily a second-home market.
“This March, we had the highest rate of inquiries we’ve had since March of 2006,” said Dick Casey, broker in charge at Wild Dunes Real Estate.
The gradually improving economy and stronger employment market have helped stop the long slide in residential sales, which began more than five years ago. For months now, the number of homes that are vying for buyers has been falling, and mortgage interest rates remain low.
Year to date, closing volume and the monthly median price for the Charleston region are running 7 percent and 4 percent higher, respectively, compared to a year ago.
Even so, sales have remained at relatively depressed levels and values have been slow to stabilize.
Some agents and sellers remain worried about foreclosures and other so-called distressed properties that have not been listed yet. Those homes could sidetrack the industry’s recovery if lenders try to sell too many at the same time.
The Realtors group also said it revised its volume for February slightly higher to 619 home sales. The median price was unchanged at $170,000.
Contact John P. McDermott at 937-5572.