Conditions ripening for sellers' market, Realtor says

cconley@islandpacket.comJuly 17, 2013 

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Home sales surged again in June across much of South Carolina, putting the state on course for its best year since the housing bust.

The Beaufort market experienced a 12 percent increase in sales last month compared with June 2012, and a 5 percent rise in the median sales price to $193,000.

In the greater Hilton Head market, sales volume for June was essentially flat compared to June 2012, but median sales prices were up about 10 percent, to $252,500.

Across much of Hilton Head Island, conditions seem to be shifting from a market favorable for buyers to one in which sellers have more control, Chip Collins of Collins Group Realty said.

"Our outlook is that, there are a lot of characteristics in place that are necessary to develop a seller's market: multiple offers, declining inventory, and increasing ratio of sales prices to list price ... (and) declining days on market," he said.

For the first six months of the year, 1,748 homes have sold in the Hilton Head market, a 7 percent increase over the same period last year. About 640 homes have sold this year in Beaufort, a 20 percent rise.

Median sales prices have risen in both markets in the first half of the year when compared to the same period last year. In the Hilton Head area market, prices are up 11 percent to $250,000, while Beaufort-area prices have bumped up 3 percent to $180,000.

Sales volume is up about 20 percent so far in 2013 across South Carolina, and prices are up 4 percent to $154,900.

Greg Bennett, broker-owner of Exit Realty Beaufort, said the market is improving in northern Beaufort County.

"North of the Broad, the market is moving very nicely, from the bottom of the market all the way up to the mid-$500s, and we are seeing activity picking up to the $700-range as well," he said.

Though interest rates on 30-year mortgages reached a multi-year peak last week at 4.5 percent, Realtors say they haven't yet risen enough to scare off buyers.

"There is no way rates can stay as low as they were," said Maria Skrip, broker-owner of Re/Max Carolina, which has offices in Bluffton, Beaufort and on Hilton Head. "They are bound to go up, and we have been telling people, 'Get these rates while they are still here.' "

Collins, along with several other Realtors, says the market is continuing to heal, and as inventory declines, a seller's market could emerge.

"Not only are we through (the worst), but we've seen a lot of ingredients necessary for a seller's market to return," Collins said. "They are all present."

Roddie Burris of The State newspaper contributed to this report.

Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/IPBG_Casey.

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