Vote of confidence: Local Realtors undaunted by potential election-season slump

gmartin@islandpacket.comAugust 9, 2012 

With fewer than 100 days before the presidential election, a certain word -- one of two often avoided by local Realtors -- figures to play an increasingly prominent role on front pages and news broadcasts nationwide.

And one of the words is not "hurricane."

It's "election."With many consumers foregoing expensive investments until the dust settles in a presidential race, the real estate market often suffers, according to Eric Gnau, a Realtor at Cora Bett Thomas Realty in Beaufort.

"People are concerned because there are a lot of moving parts right now," he explained. "They just want certainty; if you know what taxes will be in a few months you can plan for that, and right now people don't know."

However, he said that in the local market, such apprehension typically is limited to second-home buyers and investors.

"That pocket of buyers is more concerned with the effects of potential tax increases and (changing) health care costs," he said.

Jobs and consumer confidence -- which Gnau called the two most important factors affecting home sales -- are also especially contentious issues during an election season, he said.

John Trask said he is uncertain how strong home sales will be through the end of the year.

"I think that's the conventional wisdom," the Beaufort Realtor said. "Certainly, commercial activity might be more affected (by an election), but we've seen a big pick-up in those sales this year."

Realtors in southern Beaufort County were optimistic the uncertainty would not dampen what has been a very successful year to date.

According to a report released last month by S.C. Realtors, sales of homes, condominiums and villas in the Hilton Head area are up about 23 percent to date over 2011.

"Sometimes in the past, I've seen some reluctance, with people wondering what will happen leading up to and after an election," said Stephen Wallace, a Realtor with Weichert Coastal Properties in Bluffton. "But as far as I'm concerned, anyone sitting on the fence this year could miss out."

Jim Paris, a Hilton Head Island Realtor, said sales could actually increase bfore the election.

"After the election, there's the possibility that interest rates could rise from what they are right now," he explained, adding that mortgage rates remain near historic lows.

Hilton Head Area Association of Realtors president John Robinson also dismissed the notion that the year's hot sales might slump.

"Real estate is affected by economic cycles, not election cycles," he said.

Maria Skrip, broker-in-charge at RE/MAX Island Realty on Hilton Head, acknowledged the potential of an election slump but was confident it would not be felt locally.

"I'm not seeing it this year," she said. "There's been no indication that it will happen this year, and people will always want to live on the coast."

Follow reporter Grant Martin at twitter.com/LowCoBiz.

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Hilton Head home sales soar in June, July 17, 2012

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