Home closings increase in 2020 along coastal SC counties despite COVID pandemic | Myrtle Beach Business

Myrtle Beach Realtor Travis Muir put a condo up for sale in September at Blue Water Resort on Ocean Boulevard and within an hour, it was sold.

Not an every day occurrence, the realtor for The Hoffman Group admits. But, after all, it’s 2020 and anything can happen.

“The biggest thing is pricing it within realistic market price,” Muir said, adding 2020 has been his best year for sales, pushing nearly triple what he normally does.

“With this one being an investment property, the price point for the rate of return… I think one of the biggest things, too, is the interest rates are lower than they have been in a very long time. That gives people more incentive to go ahead and make that jump. They were thinking of buying in a two- or three-year window, but now with the interest rates so low, people are moving faster.”

Closed sales of single family homes and condos have increased along the southeastern coast of South Carolina, and real estate agents are pointing to low interest rates and the COVID-19 pandemic expediting retirement plans as the reason for the increase.

It has also caused a tight market for available single-family homes and condos, leading one real estate expert to call it the tightest market she’s seen in a decade.

The Coastal Carolinas Association of Realtors released a report that showed a gradual increase of closings from June to August.

Closed sales for single-family homes and condos rose from May to June by 6.7 percent, then by 22 percent from June to July and finally by 11.9 percent from July to August. 

The median sales price for single family homes dipped slightly in June to $242,995, and gradually grew to $260,000 in August. Condos increased from $145,000 in June to $161,500 in August.

Year-over-year, sales for single-family homes increased in August by 136, and year-to-date, they’ve increased by 452 to 6,704, according to CCAR.

Closed sales for condos increased for August from 2019 by 37 to 635, while year-to-date sales are up by more than 300 to 3,892.

Laura Crowther, chief executive officer of CCAR, said part of the increase has to do with the lag experienced during the quarantine this spring and other COVID restrictions.

“Certainly it is the delay of closings from the spring,” Crowther said. “When COVID hit, things had to slow a bit. It also slowed the ability of folks to be able to pull the trigger on writing offers and getting their financing in place. While a lot of that was still going on, there still was a little bit of trepidation on the side of the buyers, as well as buyers coming from other markets that were unable to get their properties closed. There was a little lag in the market and I think that’s where we’ve seen that gradual increase in that June, July, August timeframe.”

She said the cost of living compared to the northeast, the flexibility of working from home and the area’s quality of life are reasons retirees and families are moving to the area.

“Now that we have this flexibility with work, so many jobs are virtual that people can live where they want instead of where they have to live,” Crowther said. “That’s really opening up a whole new thought process for many buyers.”

Blake Sloan, realtor and owner of Sloan Realty in Myrtle Beach, said there have been many reasons why people are moving to the Grand Strand.

“July was huge compared to the previous year, as well as August,” he said. “June did very well… We have had people who are retiring earlier than planned, working remotely, and, frankly, many who are angry with their state government for the lock downs. There has also been many people we have served who wanted to get out of the city after dealing with COVID.

“It’s been crazy with people moving here from up north driven by COVID and lock downs, as well as low interest rates.”

As of last week, a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was at 2.8 percent, according to mortgage giant Freddie Mac. Earlier in September, it was at 2.86 percent — the lowest level it’s been in the 50 years Freddie Mas has been monitoring it.

Nikki Ewing, vice president of marketing for Georgetown Kraft Credit Union in Pawleys Island, said the credit union had seen an increase in loan applications for both existing residential properties and land loans, as well, for future construction.

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“The higher volume of closings is due to historically low interest rates,” Ewing said. “Many people are refinancing from much higher interest rates to save them on their monthly payments.”

Muir said properties priced at $250,000 or less are not lasting long in Horry County’s residential market.

“I have a friend whose son got asking price within one day,” Muir said. “It’s just so quick. Especially around the 200-250(K) mark. Those don’t last any time.”

Will Dieter, a realtor and owner of The Dieter Company in Pawleys Island, says he’s experienced an increase in buyers and a shortening of the length of time properties stay on the market.

“People who have been looking to escape some of those other areas, there are certain parts of the housing market where things don’t stay on the market very long right now,” Dieter said. “A lot of folks are really attracted to an area like this right now.”

Filomena Thompson, a realtor with Realty One Group Dockside who covers much of Horry County, said she has seen an increase this year, as well.

“It’s impressive considering this crazy year,” Thompson said. “So many have suffered, loss in families, job losses and have been sick and recovered, and it’s just amazing to see how our housing market has remained healthy in all aspects. Interest rates are an all-time low and make it possible for many to take advantage of making their dream come true of owning a home.”

Crowther said the region’s inventory levels are decreasing. Condos for sale are down by almost 200 in August 2020 compared to August 2019. Single-family homes are down, as well, from 4,021 last August to 2,979 in August 2020.

“It’s certainly the tightest that it’s been in about 10 years,” she said. “When we were coming out of the recession, we had a tremendous amount of inventory on the single-family and condo side. We have seen a gradual improvement in the market since about 2011 and now we’re getting to a point to where we’re starting to feel the constriction in the inventory.”

Alissa Lightman, a real estate agent with The Lightman Group and Realty One Dockside, said buyers and sellers are taking awhile to adapt to the new mentality of this quicker market.

“There are a slight number of buyers who are thinking of our market when it was in 2013-2014, where they can get deals and they can low ball, but this is not the time at all,” Lightman said. “These homeowners are getting market value, if not more.”

“Sellers also have to understand that it is a sellers market. The prices are sky high. This is the best price and market value that you will get for your property, at this point. The people who are thinking to sell, they’re going to sell for top value and fast.”

Lightman said she has seen triple the amount of sales this summer compared to last, and there’s no controlling the only thing slowing the process down.

“The only way I would see where it may slow down is because of the time it takes to close, because everyone is backed up,” she said. “You have title companies on back order, you have appraisers on back order. Those are the only things that are kind of delaying things. Definitely, I am not seeing a stop at all.”

She said October and November closings are up for her, as well.

“If people are not getting an offer within three weeks, they have to revisit the listing and make sure their pricing is accurate and their presentation is accurate for the home,” Lightman said. “It’s really quick. When we talk to buyers, we let them know you have to be ready. If you’re serious and you’re ready to buy, we have to get you pre-approved. One, because a lot of homeowners do not want someone who isn’t 100 percent pre-approved or has the funds… and the second thing is that as soon as the property comes on the market, there’s at least three to four showings in that same hour, the same day or the next day.”

Crowther said the buyers are certainly willing to pay. The average sales price for a single-family home was up to $311,000 in August compared to $274,472 in August 2019. Condos have gone up, as well, from more tan $170,000 in August 2019 to more than $193,000 this August.

“And as that inventory continues to shrink, then the prices are going to go up,” Crowther said. “I think there’s a little more urgency on the buyer’s side right now because they feel like they need to act before that perfect house is off the market.”

Crowther is hopeful the housing market remains strong, and is encouraged by how it is performing this close to a presidential election.

“Traditionally, this close to the election, things tend to slow down a bit, but we’re still experiencing pretty robust activity in the market right now,” Crowther said. “If that’s any indication, I’m thinking that with the pent up demand from this spring, we will continue to see a strong third and fourth quarter of the year, as far as sales.”

Lightman said the only certainty she sees in the market is right now.

“We could only see and take advantage of what we have now,” Lightman said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen after the elections. We don’t know what’s going to happen next year.”

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