Charleston area home sales, hamstrung in the spring by the coronavirus lockdown, have skyrocketed month after month since then and are on pace for another record-setting year thanks to record-low mortgage interest rates luring buyers by the droves.
Residential transactions soared more than 51 percent in October compared to the same month a year ago, according to preliminary numbers released by the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors.
The increase follows a nearly 50 percent gain in September, 12 percent rise in August and 32 percent surge in July as buyers swooped into the market after the spring economic lockdown.
Last month, 2,098 homes changed hands throughout the region at a median price of $317,454, a price up nearly 16 percent or about $44,000 from October 2019.
Through the first 10 months of the year, 17,867 homes sold at a median price of $299,000. For the year, sales are up 14 percent over the same time span last year while the price is $21,500 higher, or nearly 7.8 percent.
For all of 2019, a record 18,576 homes changed hands, up 2.1 percent over the previous year. The median price last year was $277,500, up 4.2 percent from 2018.
With two months to go in the sales year, the Charleston area needs just over 700 more home sales to set a record, which association spokeswoman Meghan Weinreich said is "easily within reach."
Bobette Fisher, president of the group, said with demand climbing, the region is "deep in seller’s market territory with just a month and a half’s worth of inventory available."
She noted about one-third of the properties that are for sale is concentrated from North Charleston to Moncks Corner.
"The remainder of our four-county market is stretched incredibly thin, and there’s no reason to believe that will slow down in a meaningful way any time soon, even into the typically slower holiday season," Fisher said.
She also pointed out lower mortgage interest rates are giving buyers more opportunities and options for what they can consider affordable, but strong demand and scarcity of homes are making the market ultra competitive with multiple offers being made on some properties.
The inventory of available homes plummeted again to 3,062 as "active" for sale on the CHS Regional MLS. That's down nearly 51 percent over the past 12 months.
The housing supply, already low before the pandemic, has been further reduced by health fears among would-be sellers who worry about opening their homes for showings.
Still, home showings have risen month over month since the spring lockdown was lifted.
Showing data for October was not immediately available, but in September showings throughout the Charleston region jumped 67.5 percent over the same month last year. Despite the double-digit percentage dips in the spring, showings over the 12 months through September are up an average of more than 13 percent.
Underpinning interest in new homes are record-low mortgage interest rates.
Home loan financier Freddie Mac's most recent report showed the average rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate loan ticked higher to 2.84 percent from 2.78 percent this week, but down from 3.75 percent a year ago. The 15-year, fixed rate nudged up to 2.34 percent.
While home prices continue to soar throughout the Charleston region, property information service CoreLogic predicts they will increase slightly by 0.2 percent nationally by September of next year.
"COVID has contributed to the acute shortage of inventory as the pace of new construction slowed and older prospective sellers postponed listing their homes until after the pandemic," CoreLogic's chief economist Frank Nothaft said. "Once the pandemic passes or a vaccine is widely administered, we should see a noticeable pick-up in for-sale homes."
He added that if the economy’s recovery is sluggish next year, distressed sales may also add to market inventory.
The Charleston Realtors group adjusted its home sales total for September slightly higher to show 2,083 transactions at an unchanged median price of $310,000.