Charleston-area home sales eclipsed last year's record-setting pace in 11 months.
Fueled by record-low mortgage interest rates, residential real estate transactions climbed nearly 35 percent in November compared to the same month a year ago, according to preliminary figures released Thursday by the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors.
The increase follows two 50 percent surges in September and October as buyers scooped up homes following the spring economic lockdown.
Last month, 1,816 homes changed hands throughout the region at a median price of $319,000, which was up more than 18 percent or about $50,000 from November 2019.
Through the first 11 months of the year, 19,737 homes sold at a median price of $300,000, respective gains of almost 16 percent and 8 percent.
For all of 2019, a record 18,576 homes came under new ownership, or 2.1 percent more than the previous year. The median price last year was $277,500, up 4.2 percent from 2018.
With one month to go in the sales year, the Charleston area is poised to sell more than 20,000 homes in one year for the first time ever. The performance captured the attention of the industry's biggest trade group.
The National Association of Realtors included the Charleston metro area in a list of 10 markets across the U.S. that have shown resilience during the pandemic and are expected to perform well in a post-coronavirus environment.
The Washington, D.C.-based organization cited the region's low unemployment rate of 4.7 percent, well below the national rate of 7.9 percent.
It also said, "Mobility to the leisure and recreation places is 13 percent below the pre-pandemic level, which is also below the national rate of 20 percent."
"Some markets have been performing exceptionally well throughout the pandemic, and they’ll likely carry that momentum well into 2021 and beyond because of strong in-migration of new residents, faster local job market recoveries and environments conducive to work-from-home arrangements and other factors,” NAR economist Lawrence Yun said.
Others on the top 10 list include Atlanta; Boise City, Ida.; Dallas-Fort Worth; Des Moines, Iowa; Indianapolis; Madison, Wis.; Phoenix; Provo, Utah; and Spokane, Wash.
"NAR has recognized the Charleston market for its incredible growth and performance during a year in which many markets faced significant challenges," said Bobette Fisher, president of the local association.
"Over the last 11 months, our demand has continued to grow across nearly all sub-markets in our region and with historic low rates that we expect to continue, that demand will only grow," Fisher said.
That strong demand is absorbing available housing, causing prices to rise, Fisher said.
Just 2,853 properties were listed as "active" for sale in the industry's marketing database, a decline of nearly 53 percent over the past 12 months.
The housing supply, already scarce before the pandemic, has been further stretched thin by health fears among would-be sellers who worry about opening their homes for showings.
Still, showings have climbed steadily for most of the year since the spring stay-at-home orders were lifted. November's home showings data were not available Thursday.
Driving interest in new homes is the record-low cost to borrow money.
Home loan financier Freddie Mac reported Thursday the average interest rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate loan held steady this week at last week's record low of 2.71 percent. A year ago it was more than a point higher at 3.73 percent.
The 15-year, fixed rate also remained unchanged from last week at 2.26 percent. Last year at this time, the shorter-term rate stood at 3.19 percent.
While home prices continue to climb throughout the Charleston region, property information service CoreLogic predicts they will increase slightly by nearly 2 percent nationally by October 2021.
"Homebuyers have been spurred by record-low mortgage rates and an urgency to buy or upgrade to more space, especially as much of the American workforce continues to work from home," said Frank Martell, CoreLogic's CEO.
"First-time buyers in particular should remain a big part of next year’s home purchases, as the largest wave of millennials is heading into prime home-buying years," Martell said.
The Charleston Realtors group also revised its home sales total for October slightly higher to show 2,143 transactions at a slightly lower median price of $316,840.