Home Sales Slump Again
Realtors’ report shows S.C. woes
Home sales are still dragging in the Columbia area and statewide as the nation struggles with the recession and rising joblessness.
Sales in Columbia fell 24.7 percent for the first six months of the year, compared with the same period last year, according to a report released Friday from the S.C. Realtors trade group. That’s one percentage point worse than the state, which saw double-digit declines in every region.
The Columbia median home price slid 4.2 percent to $137,000 over a year ago. It fell 8 percent to $135,000 statewide.
“The last 18 months have been mixed signals,” said Ed Flowers, owner of EXIT Real Estate Consultants. “It’s been spurts, hot and then cold. You see a little light at the end of the tunnel and then it slows down again.”
Flowers said he is hoping federal stimulus packages will help spur home sales next year, but he has little hope for the rest of 2009.
“We’re halfway through the peak selling season, and I wouldn’t expect any dramatic uptick between now and maybe the spring,” he said.
Sales have suffered statewide and in Columbia as more potential buyers stay on the fence waiting for sustained signs of a recovery. The state also is faced with the fourth-highest unemployment rate in the nation at 12 percent, and analysts predict it will go higher.
The brightest spot in the state was Beaufort, which has seen sales this year fall 14.7 percent and median price rise 0.5 percent. Greenwood was hardest hit, with a 37.5 percent decline in home sales and a 17.4 percent erosion in median price.
When sales might turn around is a mystery to many in the industry. Steven Mungo, president of The Mungo Cos. in Irmo, said he thought the region would start recovery a year ago. Mungo said the amount of inventory on the market has dwindled as builders hold off on new homes — either by choice or because they can’t get financing.
“I’m beyond betting on this,” Mungo said.
Nick Kremydas, chief executive of S.C. Realtors, said many buyers are still looking for a bottom.
“There’s some consumers sitting on the sideline, money in hand, waiting to see when the market bottoms out before they jump back in,” he said.
But, he said, if other states are any indication, South Carolina might have to wait until prices erode a little further before the market comes back. In hard-hit places such as California and Florida, prices dropped 25 percent to 30 percent before recovery began, he said.
Barring any more economic disasters, “the numbers are telling us the worst of this is going to get behind us this year and 2010 is going to be more positive,” he said.