January home sales sizzle in Charleston area

Home sales in the Charleston area continued to be strong in January, usually a slower time of year for buying activity.

Cool weather didn’t hamper Charleston-area home sales in January.

Residential sales rose 7.2 percent last month over January 2015, according to preliminary data Wednesday from the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors.

Last month, 963 homes changed hands in the region at a median price of $217,000, up $7,000, or 3.3 percent, from a year earlier.

“The strong demand from buyers has continued through the typically slower winter months, and most agents are busier than they’ve been in years,” said Michael Sally, president of the group.

“We hope to see this more sustainable growth in median price continue through this year,” he said. “Three percent growth would be a great pace for us to maintain in 2016. We were tracking almost twice that last year.”

Mortgage rates remain low, but homebuyers will continue to be challenged by a lack of available homes on the market, the association said.

The number of homes for sale has declined by 21 percent over the past 12 months, with 5,017 homes listed as “active” for sale in the Charleston Trident Multiple Listing Service.

“Inventory is going to continue to be the issue this year,” Sally said. “There are simply not enough homes on the market to result in balanced supply and demand, which is a key component to a stable market, long-term.”

In Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties, 908 homes sold at a median price of $225,000. The association’s total sales figures include properties sold outside the three counties, which lowered the overall median price for all sales.

Property information provider CoreLogic projects home prices will rise about 5.4 percent through November and cautioned that tight supply will result in higher prices for home seekers, possibly driving some out of the market.

Home equity is growing along with higher prices, but “affordability is becoming more of a constraint on sales in some markets,” said Anand Nallathambi, CEO of CoreLogic.

The North Charleston-based Realtors group also revised December’s figures slightly higher to show 1,389 transactions. The median price for the month was unchanged at $241,250.

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