May was another solid month for the real estate market on Hilton Head Island and surrounding areas.
Total sales for the month were up 6 percent compared to May 2012, and median sale prices rose 18 percent over the same period to $275,000, according to data from S.C. Realtors.
During the first six months of the year, median prices were up 11.1 percent for the region that includes Hilton Head and greater Bluffton, and total sales were up 9.3 percent, the S.C. Realtors data show.
James Wedgeworth, of James Wedgeworth and Associates realty firm, says the market has already hit bottom and the recovery has taken hold. The biggest surge has been in the lower end of the market, he said, while interest in resort-style properties selling for $1 million and up is still sluggish.
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"You have a lot of people moving to the island. The residential end of the market is better than the resort end of the market," he said, adding that million-dollar waterfront homes typically are slower to recover.
The S.C. Realtors data also showed a decrease in the average number of days a home on Hilton Head stayed on the market. Homes sold, on average, in 123 days in May, down from 129 days last May.
There are other positive signs.
Foreclosures and short sales that dragged down the local housing market for several years are drying up, yet the number of buyers has held steady, said Mike Broadhurst, a Realtor with Carolina Realty Group. Meanwhile, the number of homeowners who are two months behind on their payments is also down, he said.
Although the data suggest steady improvement, Broadhurst said the market is still struggling.
"There is a lot of good news all around, but to say we are in a normal market, we are not there yet," said Broadhurst, who sells property in Bluffton and on the island.
The Beaufort area market also is proving resilient. After a slow April, sales and prices both rebounded in May and were stronger than the same period last year.
Total sales were up 20 percent to 119, and the median sales price increased 4 percent to $202,000. Homes also sold in an average of 187 days, three fewer than last May.
"The last three years, each year has gotten better and better as progress improved," said Everett Ballenger, owner of Ballenger Realty in Beaufort. "But to be honest, we haven't seen (a significant) increase in sale prices yet."