Home sales ride high in February

Local home sales are evoking a sense of deja vu as they mirror levels not seen since early 2008, before the last recession really took its toll on buyers.

Local home sales are evoking a sense of deja vu as they mirror levels not seen since early 2008, before the last recession really took its toll on buyers.

A total of 722 residences changed hands at a median price of $181,334 in the region in February, up 15 percent from a year ago, according to preliminary figures released Monday by the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors.

That was 97 more homes sold than in February 2012 and was just roughly equal to the volume in February 2008, two months after the recession started.

Home prices gained traction last month as well, coming close to February 2009 levels, when the median price for homes in the Lowcountry totaled $183,322.

The housing market is getting help from low mortgage rates and lower home prices compared with years ago, though both are ticking up.

So far this year, 1,367 homes have sold at a median of $181,917 in the association’s market area, which most parts of Charleston, Dorchester and Berkeley counties and outlying areas. That’s almost 19 percent more sales than a year ago. The median price is up four percent.

Ann Whalen, broker-in-charge of Coldwell Banker United Realtors in Mount Pleasant, said her staff is fielding multiple offers for listings.

“I think people have been reluctant to buy before and now they’re seeing that there’s not much inventory, so if they’re going to buy, now is the time,” Whalen said. “We are finding in my office that our listings are selling much faster than they did last year.”

The increased activity also helped the Lowcountry recently crack the 300 mark again for homes placed under contract in a single week, the first such milestone in nearly three years.

In all, 302 homes went under contract in the region from Feb. 24 to March 2, or 48 more than the corresponding week a year ago, according to CharlestonRealEstateStats.com.

The last time the Lowcountry reached more than 300 homes under contract was in April 2010, when there was a temporary federal subsidy available to first-time home buyers and certain other residential purchasers.

The growth on the sales side thinned the number of homes available in the association’s Multiple Listing Service database, which had 5,632 properties as of Monday, or about 1,000 fewer than a year ago. Also, the association revised its data for January to reflect 645 sales and a median price of $182,500. The preliminary report showed 634 transactions and a median price of $181,750.