The Hilton Head Island residential real estate market is healthier now thana year ago, according to a report released Tuesday by S.C. Realtors.
The Beaufort market, on the other hand, has weakened, the report suggests.
Sales in the Hilton Head area for the first four months of the year are up nearly 12 percent compared to the same period last year. In Beaufort, the number of sales has declined almost 8 percent. Statewide, home sales are up about 5 percent.
"We're always lagging Hilton Head," said Beaufort Realtor Edward Dukes. "We were lagging going into the recession, and we're lagging coming out of it."
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Dukes attributed much of the disparity to different subsets of prospective buyers in the two markets.
"Hilton Head has the benefit of drawing from a number of major metropolitan areas," he said.
It's not all good news for the Hilton Head market, however. April's median sale price for residential homes, condos and villasdipped $60,000 -- to $210,000 -- from April 2011.
The 22-percent change was the steepest decline of any of the state's 16 regions, according to S.C. Realtors.
The association takes into account several counties in its designation of the "Hilton Head area," which spans southern Beaufort County and goes as far inland as Orangeburg and Bamberg.
Hilton Head Realtor Charles Sampson was unfazed by that dip, saying the median price would rebound when elite properties begin selling again. The market is good for those seeking a primary residence, "butthe high-end, second-home properties still aren't selling. A lot of that market hasn't come back yet," he said.
The average time on the market for Hilton Head-area homes sold in April decreased from 146 a year ago to 139 days in the Hilton Head area. However, it rose from 192 to 223 days in Beaufort,the second-longest average wait of any region.
"A great portion of available properties just aren't priced to sell in this market," said Beaufort Realtor Carl Joye. "A lot of sellers can't afford to lower their asking price, (because) they don't want to take a hit."
Joye cautioned prospective sellers that the market is unlikely to shift enough for them to command a higher price anytime soon.
"We have to get rid of a lot of distressed property first," he said. "If they wait a couple years before selling, they'll be much better off."