Q&A with gubernatorial candidates Nikki Haley and Vincent Sheheen: Education

Nikki Haley (left), Vincent Sheheen (right)

The summer home-buying season ended on an upbeat note, with August closings hitting a high for the year.

Home sales last month jumped by about one-third in the Charleston region compared to the same period of 2010, but downtrodden residential property values remain in flux, new figures show.

The Charleston Trident Association of Realtors said Monday that 904 homes changed hands in August at a median price of $185,000. It was most active month based on transaction volume so far in 2011, the group said.

"The addition of jobs and increased consumer confidence remain the driving forces behind the housing market recovery" said Rob Woodul, the association's president.

Through August, sales are up about 3 percent over 2010, Woodul said in a statement.

"Every month, we take another small step in the right direction. Our market remains fragile, but sales volume has increased steadily throughout the year," he said.

The median price for the region was down 7 percent compared to August 2010, but it was up 3 percent from July. Year to date, the median figure is down 4 percent.

Housing prices have been under pressure in Charleston and many other markets from foreclosures and "short sales," in which the mortgage lender agrees to take a loss. Those factors, which typically force other sellers to cut prices, "will continue to have an impact on pricing until they clear from local inventory," the association said.

The group said market conditions are uneven across the region. For example, higher sales volume in Dorchester County has been coupled with pricing stability since May.

But prices in Charleston and Berkeley counties have been "making corrections this summer," the group said.

The August numbers are preliminary. July's figures have been revised to 838 sales, up 1 percent, and a median price of $179,250, down less than 1 percent.

Contact John McDermott at 937-5572.