April home sales dip slightly: Median price also down; foreclosures cited

A home is seen with a "sold" sign in the front yard.

April home sales in the Charleston region were slightly lower than the same month a year ago, a period when a popular temporary federal tax subsidy was still available to buyers.

Values continued to slip, mainly because of an oversupply of foreclosures on the market. The median price edged down 3 percent on a year-over-year basis, and it was off 1.4 percent from March 2011.

According to preliminary data released by the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors on Tuesday, 776 homes sold in April at a median price of $175,000.

A year ago, 784 homes changed hands at a median of $180,174.

April, considered one of the busiest periods for the residential real estate business, also came up short compared to the previous month. In March the region racked up 850 sales at a median price of $177,495, newly revised numbers show.

Association President Rob Woodul was not alarmed by the lower April sales figures.

"I don't believe it's a trend," Woodul said. "I don't think it's that far off."

He said about 25 to 30 more unreported sales from April will trickle in over the next few weeks, and he added that a late spring break around Easter and people taking vacations might have attributed to a drop in activity last month.

Doug Holmes, an agent for Carolina One Real Estate who analyzes local market figures, agreed that it's not that big of a difference.

"Statistically, that's rather insignificant," Holmes said. "The agencies are so darn busy that they may have not reported all their numbers. We're busy as heck right now."

Looking at the bright side, the association said sales are running 8 percent ahead of 2010 without benefit of a federal subsidy, which offered a tax credit of up to $8,000 to qualified buyers. The incentive expired April 30, 2010, triggering a wave of last-minute spring purchases.

"Over the next few months we will see a clearer picture of how our market is responding to a non-incentivized buying environment," Woodul said.

About 2,600 homes have been sold year to date.

Prices continued to be pulled down by the glut of repossessed homes, which lenders typically mark down when they try to sell them.

"Once we work through the surplus of distressed property, prices will slowly recover. It's not going to happen overnight, but it will happen eventually," Woodul said.

The Charleston Trident Multiple Listing Service database showed 8,899 homes were classified as being actively for sale as of April 30. At this time last year there were 9,605 homes listed.

Home front

How home sales fared in the three-county region in April, based on preliminary data:

Charleston County

451 homes sold at a median price of $208,000. While sales climbed about 12%, prices are down about 11% when compared to April a year ago.

Berkeley County

170 homes sold at a median price of $145,000. These figures represent a roughly 14% sales slide and a 9% decline in prices from April 2010. The area around U.S. Highway 17A and College Park Road had the top sales volume with 45 transactions.

Dorchester County

129 homes sold at a median price of $147,490, reflecting a 18% decline in sales volume and 3.5% price slide. The highest volume was in the Summerville-Ridgeville area, where 61 homes sold. That also was the county's most affordable area, with a median price of $127,950.

Warren L. Wise and Derek Legette of The Post and Courier staff contributed to this report.