The Hilton Head Island and Beaufort areas are on pace through the first four months of 2011 to meet or exceed last year's home sales, according to figures released this week by the S.C. Realtors association.
The Hilton Head area is ahead of last year's pace with 855 homes and condos sold through April. That figure was 793 at this time a year ago.
The Beaufort area is on par with last year, with 332 sales.
The statistics appear to represent a continuation of momentum that began last year. In 2010, sales increased 16.1 percent to 2,486 in the Hilton Head area and by 21.7 percent to 963 in the Beaufort area compared to 2009.
The president of the Hilton Head Area Association of Realtors, Karen Ryan of Weichert Realtors Coastal Properties, said sales are improving as consumer confidence picks up and the national economy rebounds.
That's allowing more people to sell their homes elsewhere in the country and move to Hilton Head, Ryan said.
Some homes are drawing multiple offers, she said, and investors are returning to the area to buy rental property after a long absence.
"I feel like we're getting some good indications the market is turning for us," Ryan said.
Buyers still have difficulty getting mortgages in some cases, but they are getting low interest rates if they qualify, she said.
Some sellers are frustrated prices remain depressed -- to pre-2000 levels in some cases -- but the Hilton Head-area market seems to be stabilizing, Ryan said.
So does the Beaufort-area market, according to Beaufort County Association of Realtors president Bryan Gates of ERA Evergreen Real Estate Co.
"We're as good as we've been in a while," he said.
Median prices appear to be recovering in both markets. They were down more than 11 percent in the Hilton Head area and more than 6 percent in Beaufort last year compared to 2009.
So far this year, Beaufort's median price is up 0.9 percent to $176,500.
Hilton Head's median price is down slightly to $223,500, a 0.7 percent decrease.
Statewide, the residential real estate market remains under pressure.
Home sales and the median price paid per home were down statewide in April compared with April 2010, the last month an $8,000 federal home-buyers tax credit was available. And the average time a house or condo sat on the market rose for the month, from 131 days to 144 days.
"In South Carolina, until the job market improves, families are reluctant, with good reason, to make a major purchase, and they certainly aren't going to make one if they don't know whether they're going to be getting a paycheck," S.C. Realtors CEO Nick Kremydas said in a statement.
The Hilton Head area was the only bright spot in South Carolina in April, with sales rising 7.1 percent. Most regions -- other than the coast, where investors have been snapping up foreclosed properties -- saw double-digit sales declines. The Orangeburg area was the hardest hit, with a 51 percent drop in sales. In the Greenville area, sales slipped 24 percent.
The (Columbia) State contributed.