Columbia-area home sales are still gaining steam a year after their turnaround started.
Home sales and prices are on the rise and the number of homes on the market is returning to a normal level as buyers take advantage of historically low interest rates, a report Thursday showed.
“It’s coming back,” said Tommy Carter, broker-in-charge of Russell & Jeffcoat’s metro office. “Every month this year has been a little bit better than last year.”
Sales spiked 22 percent to 770 in Columbia in August, according to the report from the S.C. Realtors trade group. That’s up 37 percent from August 2010, when 563 homes sold.
The median price of homes sold in Columbia also increased 3 percent in August to $142,500. But that’s still 6 percent below 2010’s median sales price of $152,250.
In South Carolina, sales increased 12 percent to 5,099 in August. The median price rose 4 percent to $155,000.
Columbia saw its first positive home sales report in August 2011 after years of declines. Sales have increased every month since then except one.
“People are not as afraid to buy” as they were during the depths of the recession when layoffs and pay cuts were rampant, Carter said. “We’re beginning to get a little bit of good news nationally.”
Sales could continue picking up into the fall – a time when they typically slow as children get settled into school and the holidays approach.
Pending sales – in which a contract has been signed but the sale has not closed – rose 27 percent in August in Columbia to 800. That’s an indicator that sales could be strong in the coming month as those deals close.
Record-low interest rates and an economy boosted by bold Federal Reserve action Thursday also are likely to spur improving sales, experts said. The average interest rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage was 3.55 percent Thursday and rates are expected to stay low for the next three years.
And as sales continue to rise, Columbia will get closer to a balanced market. The months’ supply of homes on the market has fallen below a year – to 11.7 months – for the first time in years. A balanced market is about a six-month supply.
“We’ve been seeing a lot more traffic. We’re seeing the phones ringing,” said Ken Queen, an agent with ERA Wilder Realty’s Northeast Richland office. “The continued low interest rates has to be what’s driving it.
“We’re hoping to ride this wave for another 60 days or so and get all we can out of this year. It has been a positive year overall.”
While there are still an inflated number of foreclosures on the market compared to pre-recession levels, much of the rebound now is being driven by resales and new home sales, Queen said.
The excessive foreclosures are beginning to work their way out of the market and home construction is picking up, he said.
“There’s reason for optimism going into the last third of 2012 and even into 2013,” the S.C. Realtors report said, “and housing is actually playing a large role in that positive outlook.”