The Sun News in Myrtle Beach released an article on the front page of Tuesdays newpaper that talked about the upswing in home and condo sales in March 2010 compared to March 2009. In all areas along the Grand Strand sales and traffic are on a much needed upswing. Hopefully, this trend continues in the Myrtle Beach Real Estate market. Read the article below from The Sun News.
Area Realtors see signs pointing toward recovery as the volume of Grand Strand real estate sales seems to be steadily marching upward, even as prices continue to lag.
Single-family home sales were up 14 percent and condominium sales were up 72 percent, when compared to the same month last year, according to data collected from the Multiple Listing Service on Monday.
"It's encouraging to me that we're starting to see some continuity in the trend," said Tom Maeser, a real estate analyst for the Coastal Carolinas Association of Realtors. "The only trend I'm worried about is the average price continuing to go down. ... When I see that start to stabilize, that will be another good indicator, that will be the next good indicator."
Prices were up slightly for single-family homes in February, but it appears to have been a blip because prices declined again in March, when compared to the previous year.
The median price for single-family homes - the price at which half sold for more and half sold for less - was down 1 percent to $172,950 when compared to the same month last year. The median condo price was $120,000, down 8 percent.
Prices have dropped to where they were in 2004 and 2005, before prices started climbing fast.
"Real estate is driven by pricing and our pricing is pretty darn good right now, and that is pretty much driving the market for us," Maeser said.
It may still take more than a year for the market to balance into more of a sellers market, which is marked by a six-month supply of inventory, but that could be accelerated if loans become more available and foreclosures slow, he said.
The 72 percent increase in condo sales is impressive, but last year at this time the market was "pretty dead" so it doesn't take much to improve, said Greg Harrelson, owner of Century 21 The Harrelson Group.
The cold winter is helping drive sales now as people from the Northeast are choosing to buy a place on the Grand Strand to avoid another winter, he said.
"They just want to buy something here while the value is good," Harrelson said. "There's no question from our personal experience we are seeing an increase in transactions."
There is also another good sign - an increase of about 50 percent in the number of properties that receive multiple offers, he said.
Despite the increase in demand, which may drive prices up on certain properties, overall prices continue to decline.
"I think we're just cleaning out a lot of supply," Harrelson said, explaining that prices will only bounce back once there are fewer properties available.
In March the number of single-family homes listed for sale in the MLS dropped slightly from 6,293 in 2009 to 6,210 this year. Condo listings dropped more dramatically, coming down to 5,945 this year from 7,195 in 2009.
"It looks like we've identified, as a market, where the bottom is," he said. "It doesn't mean we're going to bounce back up, but we have more of a handle at what this market needs to be priced at to get rid of that inventory."
The greater drop in condo inventory may be due to the fact that there is little new construction, whereas builders are building single-family homes steadily, Harrelson said.
Overall in the first three months of the year, single-family homes sales were up 17 percent and condo sales were up 16 percent. While median prices dropped in March in the first quarter of the year, single-family home prices were up 1 percent but condo sales were down 8 percent.
That slight uptick likely doesn't mean that prices are actually increasing, but rather that fewer lower priced homes are available and people are buying more in a higher price category, Maeser said.
Rod Smith, the director of general brokerage for Coldwell Banker Chicora said that while the market as a whole may not be showing price increases, he has seen pockets of price stabilization throughout the area.
In March, 50 percent of buyers paid with cash, with 41 percent using conventional financing and the remainder getting loans through programs like the Federal Housing Administration or Veterans Affairs.
Many cash buyers are investors who are often the fastest to recognize a good deal, but some are people who have been wanting to move to the area and are taking loans on other homes to buy a home, Smith said.
"There is also a hint in the air of interest rates ticking back up, and that is often a motivator," he said.
The spring usually brings more real estate sales to the area, but combined with pent-up demand and the still low interest rates, buyers are expressing more interest.
"In the last month to month and a half, we have seen a much stronger push by the buying public to jump in," Smith said.
Myrtle Beach is like many other coastal areas across the country, seeing a great improvement in sales in March. Sarasota, Fl real estate also saw a considerable improvement in the amount of homes sold in March 2010 when compared to March 2009. With inventories levels steadily decreasing, let's hope we are finally on our way to recovery.