Home sales steady 2014 reflects stability in Charleston region with 8.8% growth

Home sales volume rose 8.8 percent in the Charleston area last year from 2013.

Home sales in the Charleston region climbed at a brisk but more moderate pace in 2014, continuing the rebound from the deep recession's end nearly six years ago.

The Charleston Trident Association of Realtors reported Wednesday that home sales increased 8.8 percent last year, down from double-digit growth of 2013 but still strong.

The median sales price in the region jumped 4.9 percent in 2014 to $215,000.

Just over 14,250 sales closed last year, up from about 13,100 in 2013.

“Last year, the market was about what we expected it to be — good, steady growth back to a stable market,” said Matt DeAntonio, president of association. “We can expect more of the same in 2015. The local real estate market seems to be poised for continued growth.”

University of South Carolina economist Joey Von Nessen echoed his remarks.

“If you liked 2014, then you are really going to like 2015,” he said. “2015 will be slightly better.”

With employment generally paralleling housing sales since people can't buy a home if they don't have a job, he said employment is back to the 2 percent growth rate before the recession. Also, consumers are in a better position than any time during the past five years, Von Nessen said.

He added that plunging oil prices could lead overseas-based companies that do business in the state to consider locating in South Carolina, which could also affect the housing market. The drop in petroleum prices also could offset some of the uncertainty of weaker world markets, particularly in Europe, a big export destination for shippers using the Port of Charleston.

“The decline in oil prices is a major, major benefit to South Carolina,” Von Nessen said.

He predicts the state's jobless rate will be about 6.3 percent this year, and the Palmetto State probably won't reach full employment until 2016 at the earliest. At that point, employers may be forced to increase wages to attract and retain quality workers.

On the home front, prices, though still rising, are not appreciating at unsustainable rates, a positive sign of a stabilizing market, Von Nessen said.

“We are seeing more stability in the price points,” he said. “We are still seeing an increase, but at a lower rate.”

He predicts a 6 percent increase in housing sales by July, down four times the pace of buying two years ago, but still strong.

The federal government is expected to start raising interest rates this year for the first time in eight years, but at a gradual pace.

Even so, the head of Charleston's largest real estate firm said people will continue to buy.

“Not only was 2014 a good year, home sales were accelerating and speeding up toward the end of the year (in the Charleston area),” said Michael Scarafile, president of Carolina One Real Estate.

Scarafile said strong sales are carrying over into the new year, home inventories are healthy and interest rates continue to be low.

“The combination of those three things sets 2015 up to be a great year,” he said. “Our market is poised for an extended period of success based on good, old-fashioned principles of supply and demand.”

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