Local firm’s economic portrait envisions sustained growth for Charleston area housing scene

The midpoint price for a house in the Lowcountry in 2014 was $229,000, an all-time high.This house off Central Avenue in Summerville was on the market for a little less than the median. File/Leroy Burnell/Staff

Surging moves in the “home stretch” can provide an exclamation point to races or competitions, either eking out a win or offering an upbeat outlook for the future.

Similarly, economic markets such as housing can pick up momentum by ending the year with a burst. That’s good news for the Charleston area, which parlayed a steady real estate season into a very good one with a predicted jump at the end.

“As expected, the 2014 Charleston real estate market closed out with a strong finish, with prices and volume continuing to rise in our increasingly popular and growing region,” according to Charleston Preferred Properties real estate agency.

The Lowcountry reported a $229,000 median sales price for single-family homes, up 5 percent from 2013. The figure has historic significance, the firm notes.

“For many years, those of us in the real estate profession have looked back to the ‘good old days’ in 2007 when Charleston real estate values peaked. We now have a new benchmark to aspire to in last year’s median price, which is the highest on record,” the firm points out.

Sales volume likewise moved upward last year, yet fell short of the 13,000 closed sales market peak set in 2005, according to Charleston Preferred Properties.

The region counted 11,500 single-family home sales last year, up from 10,500 closed transactions in 2013.

Rising median prices and climbing sales volumes are “two important metrics that illustrate the health of the Charleston real estate market,” the company says.

According to Charleston Preferred Properties, the region’s “increasingly diverse economic base,” global kudos as a leading travel spot and favorable trends in the financial arena contribute to a healthy market. The company expressed confidence “these trends will continue to have a positive impact in 2015.”

A burgeoning economy helps the construction market, giving a boost to residential and commercial development alike, the company says.

“Some of the top employers in the manufacturing and technology sectors, in particular — including Boeing and BenefitFocus — announced plans for expansion last year,” the agency notes. “As those and other projects come to fruition they are bringing an increased number of high-paying jobs, and home buyers, to Charleston.”

Charleston Preferred Properties released observations on the economy going forward. They include:

- Rising, but not threateningly high, interest rates looming. Bolstered consumer confidence last year mirrored an overall increase in interest rates. Yet even if mortgage rates surge a full percentage point to 5 percent — considered a worst-case scenario — the rates will still be well below historic averages, Charleston Preferred Properties says.

Such a rate increase in the next year isn’t expected to damper real estate sales in 2015. Baby boomers, a strong market force, are “generally smart, know what they want, and likely to be undeterred by a 1 percent change in mortgage rates,” according to Charleston Preferred Properties.

- For buyers, time equals money. Buyers should be aware that “Charleston real estate prices are likely to continue on an upward trend for the foreseeable future,” the agency says. Many of the people that Charleston Preferred Properties has talked to wish they had acted sooner in 2014 to purchase a home. “We predict that hesitant buyers will have the same regrets in 2015.”

- For sellers, pricing is everything. The gradual rise in prices has tempted some sellers “to aim higher when pricing their property,” figuring they can reduce the value later if they don’t get a contract. “That’s a flawed philosophy,” Charleston Preferred Properties says.

“It’s very difficult to change the perception of an overpriced listing once it has been established,” the agency says. “You are much better off listing at a fair market price, attracting interest, tours and a quick buyer, than you are promoting a property that people dismiss as overpriced.”

- Buyer or seller, you need a good agent. According to Charleston Preferred Properties, buyers want agents who can help them find and negotiate “the best properties for their money.” Agents, meanwhile, help sellers by examining a neighborhood’s inventory, setting a strategic price and advising on listing the property “at the most advantageous time.”

For more, go to www.charlestonpreferredproperties.com.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.