Charleston-area home sales rise 2.1% in March

Home sales in the Charleston region continued at a moderate pace in March.

Warmer weather ushered in a modest uptick in new home buyers throughout Charleston in March as tight inventories helped push up prices.

Residential transactions jumped 2.1 percent last month over March 2015, according to preliminary data Monday from the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors.

Last month, 1,469 homes changed hands in the region at a median price of $233,097, up about $12,000, or 5.5 percent, from a year earlier.

So far this year, 3,534 homes have sold at a median price of $230,000 in the Charleston area. Volume is up 5.5 percent, and the median price has grown 10 percent, compared to the first three months of 2015.

The head of the Realtors group called the number of sales last month “an ideal rate” of growth year over year.

“The 2 percent growth in sales volume is a much more sustainable pace for our market,” said Michael Sally, association president.

He cautioned that the driving force behind the decline in sales pace is the ongoing lack of inventory in the market.

The number of homes listed as “active” for sale in the region was 5,256 as of Monday in the Charleston Trident Multiple Listing Service, a decline of 20 percent from this time last year.

“Prices are still rising at too fast a pace, tracking at 10 percent growth year to date, also a likely side effect of the minimal inventory,” Sally said. “Unfortunately, there aren’t many quick-fix solutions to the inventory problem. Investors are holding on to the single-family homes they’re renting because they’re profiting from rising rents, and their properties are rapidly appreciating.”

That freezes buyers looking to upgrade out of the market at the same time builders are leery of adding new products that could create an oversupply of inventory, he said.

Property information service CoreLogic said a drop in fixed-rate mortgage rates by one-quarter of a percentage point during the first three months and the creation of 209,000 jobs a month during the same period will buoy home purchases during the spring.

That will support the firm’s projection of a 5.2 percent rise in home prices nationally over the next year, CoreLogic chief economist Frank Nothaft said.

The North Charleston-based group also revised February’s sales figures slightly higher to show 1,096 transactions. The median price for the month was unchanged at $236,500.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 843 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.