Category Archives: Make Your Move – Charleston Real Estate Problems, Tips

Moving to/within Charleston. Using an agent or not. Common Real Estate problems and complaints along with solutions and how to make sure your move doesn’t turn in to a nightmare.

What’s Changing With Charleston Real Estate?

An article in Forbes Magazine, January 2009 listed Charelston as one of the top 25 strongest housing markets in the country.  One of the key indicators is when a particular market is projected to hit bottom.  The article says that Charleston will hit bottom in late 2009.  So what’s happening right now?  I can tell you.  Inventory is still increasing along with days on market while monthly sales are at an all time low, sub 500 per month.  Woh, that’s bad.  January was 415 and February – 388.  There may be a few unposted sales for February, but not many I don’t think. 

I’m very glad to see that someone thinks things are going to get better soon.  Charleston is a great place to live.  Prices have finally started to come down significantly, at least from an average and median price standpoint.  The average is down $42,000 and the median $20,000.  This could be that more expensive houses aren’t selling so you have to be careful what to conclude from these averages.  They don’t necessarily mean that you can expect to buy the same home for $20,000-$40,000 less. 

There are opportunities out there for those that are in a position to buy.  While there are many sellers that are still unrealistic about what they can expect a buyer to pay, there should be enough that are seeing the light that you should be able to get a deal.  I’ve been saying this  every since 2007 when things started going down hill.  If you work with a sharper harder working agent, you can definately find deals.  I’m not on the bandwagon with the “This is a great time to buy” crowd.  I know I certainly wouldn’t be happy if I purchased a home and watched it drop in value by $20,000.  We don’t know where the bottom is going to be, or how long it is going to take. 

If you can’t stomach an extra move, and you’re going to be in your house awhile, the interest rates are low, and we probably are close to reaching our bottom.  No one can tell you, however, what that bottom is going to look like.  Interest rates are a huge part of the equation over 10 years or more, so definately keep a close eye out if you’re in a position to buy.  Also, definately make sure you are working with a skilled and hardworking agent.  If you need  a referral, please get in touch with us.

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Charleston Real Estate Market Update 8/13/08

A “Wait and See” approach seems to be driving many buyers today that don’t have a major reason to make a move now.  Realtors and Lenders are trying to convince buyers that, “Now is a good time to buy.”  Sales for July were down dramatically, 34.3%, 782 vs 1190 units, from the same month last year, and inventories still are over 11,000 across the three counties.  It’s pretty obvious that buyers just aren’t buying the “Now is a good time to buy.” mantra. 

This is not what sellers want to here, for sure.  It’s always wise for sellers, no matter what the situation, to try to look at things through the buyer’s eyes.  Buyers are skiddish that they are going to make a move, and prices are going to fall.  Surprisingly, in spite of all indications to the contrary, average home prices continue to hold steady.  What is changing is the average discount, which used to be under 2%, and is now almost 6%. 

I very much look forward for your sake and mine that things turn around sooner rather than later.  I know that for many of you, this is a moot point, because you can’t make a move until someone buys your home.  At present, I think we are in a bit of a vicious circle.  The good news is, it can’t stay this way forever.  Something has to break lose.  This is a country of innovation, initiative, and results, and eventually the progress we continue to make with efficiencies and progress across the board can overcome just about anything.

Worst Market for Sellers and Realtors since, well I’m not sure

Sales Units for October were at their lowest level since January 2004, but inventory levels are double at about 12 months, versus 6 months in January 2004.  I’m not going to go back and do the research to find the answer…it’s bad.  Less than 850 agents had a sale in October, (out of about 4500), and 300 of those more than one.  (its takes at least 2/mo to have a viable business)  My business is way down in spite of our web presence.  Many of you with whom I am in contact are having difficult selling your homes.  Therefore, you can’t come here and work with me to find your home here in Charleston. 

The saddest news is for homeowners that bought at the peak, which was June 2005.  Prices are finally dropping a bit, and sellers that need to sell becuase of a job change, divorce, etc. are feeling the pinch.  Real Estate companies are advertising that this is a great time to buy.  I guess if you represent a lot of sellers, you owe it to them to present things in the best light.  I happen to think the public is smart enough to see through the smoke and mirrors.  While I’m not happy about what it’s doing to  my income, I’d rather deal with that, than have my buyer clients come up short.  Consequently, I’ve taken on some management consulting work for some small businesses and am very pleased to have it. 

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.  I simply refuse to spin it.  It’s going to get better; and I’m not one to speculate when.  Others are saying spring of 2009.  So, if you want to get in now knowing that it might get a little worse before it gets better, you’ll be taking a risk.  Wise investment has a lot to do with managing risk.  If my son was taking a job in Charleston right now, and he was going to be here for awhile, I’d say rent for six months and see if inventories are continuing to rise.  If you’d like to know precisely when the inventory and sales trend changes, stay tuned to www.allthingscharleston.com.   

Charleston SC Average Home Sale Prices Finally Drop in September

The conditions have been right for home sale prices to drop for some time with inventory levels continuing to increase. Yet, month after month, average home sales prices Charleston wide have continued to increase.  The average sale price finally dropped in September. (see below)  We saw a similar drop in July, and then back to an increase in August so we still don’t know for sure that we have a trend.  October is another month.  You can drill down into just about any part of town, even to the subdivision level, and prices have been increasing…in spite of increasing inventory levels. 

Charleston is a great place to live.  We have weather to die for with four seasons, lot’s of things to do for all ages, good schools.  Cara and I have lived and worked in this area for 15 years.  After living here for 10 years, we moved to Georgia in 2002-2004 and moved back.  If you aren’t already sold on Charleston, you simply haven’t spent enough time here.  If you’re already sold on Charleston, and are planning your move, the timing is right.  It could get better possibly.  Who can tell?  I definately don’t subscribe to using market timing for investing in real estate.  What you want to avoid is a “bubble” situation.  There simply isn’t any evidence that suggests that we have that sort of thing here in Charleston.  We don’t have any one industry like oil or technology that dominates our economy.  There are a lot of people that still want to move here, and if anything is slowing things down, it’s that they’re having difficult selling their homes where they are now. 

It’s certainly getting more difficult to buy a home now.  100% financing with moderate credit scores are going to go away.  That will definately affect the number of buyers out there. 

Sales and Inventory History

Monday, October 08, 2007
Category – Residential

Month Year Monthly Sales Avg ListPrice Avg Sale Price % Diff Sell/list Avg DOM Curr Inventory Months Inventory
January 2006 1180 $320,178 $312,341 97.55% 63.0 5403 4.58
February 2006 1180 $280,734 $274,314 97.71% 62.0 6182 5.24
March 2006 1627 $306,203 $298,971 97.64% 66.0 6581 4.04
April 2006 1441 $303,275 $296,733 97.84% 62.0 7042 4.89
May 2006 1660 $325,230 $316,575 97.34% 60.0 7461 4.49
June 2006 1773 $289,490 $281,986 97.41% 65.0 7934 4.47
July 2006 1466 $299,368 $291,011 97.21% 63.0 8541 5.83
August 2006 1435 $298,007 $289,876 97.27% 68.0 8832 6.15
September 2006 1464 $279,815 $271,870 97.16% 71.0 9059 6.19
October 2006 1184 $310,670 $299,181 96.30% 76.0 9476 8.00
November 2006 1166 $286,093 $277,676 97.06% 79.0 9456 8.11
December 2006 1176 $282,242 $271,683 96.26% 88.0 9150 7.78
 
Total 2006 16752 $298,442 $290,185 97.23% 68.6 7,926 5.83
  
January 2007 893 $316,597 $304,946 96.32% 97.0 9157 10.25
February 2007 977 $284,609 $274,896 96.59% 99.0 9524 9.75
March 2007 1296 $303,094 $293,067 96.69% 94.0 9998 7.71
April 2007 1086 $303,123 $294,057 97.01% 91.0 10412 9.59
May 2007 1329 $315,476 $304,580 96.55% 92.0 10705 8.05
June 2007 1360 $336,438 $324,334 96.40% 89.0 10724 7.89
July 2007 1160 $310,905 $298,938 96.15% 91.0 10685 9.21
August 2007 1133 $332,407 $319,387 96.08% 94.0 10649 9.40
September 2007 878 $306,711 $296,856 96.79% 95.0 10705 12.19
 
Total 2007 10112 $312,151 $301,229 96.50% 93.6 10,284 9.33
  
Total 2006-2007 26864 $305,297 $295,707 96.86% 81.5 9,105 7.50

Let us know your thoughts.  It will be very interesting to see what happens to the supply of buyers out there. 

Stay Tuned for July Market Update

Hello Everyone.  Sorry updates have been al little sparce.  I’ve been in Chicago attending a n executive development seminar.  Cara and I are getting caught up getting ready for a Summer trip to New York.  And we’ve been pretty busy with closings and other business related activities.  I guess this is our time to make hay.  So not so much fun stuff.  I will be keeping you up to date with the monthly market update, so you can get the latest right from actual MLS statistics. 

 We’ve recieved a lot of good feedback on our articles and updates, which I really appreciate.  There is so much spin out there, it’s good to know our work is having the desired effect.  Our intention is to help you make the best possible decisions for you and your family…even if it means you end up renting or staying put…and therefore, we don’t get paid yet.  We have people ask us all the time about whether they should rent or buy.  Is now a good time to move to Charleston?  What does the fact that the Charleston real estate market is levelling mean to me if my circumstances dictate that I have to move to Charleston now.  We just had two families close on their new homes in the Summerville area.  In Summerville, the appreciation isn’t what it was in 2005/6, but values are still increasing.  It is not a buyer’s market right now in Summerville, unless your home is cosmetically challenged.  Or if you’re up to taking on someone’s cosmetically challenged home as a buyer.  There are so many choices of brand new homes, it makes selling a previously owned home a lot harder, if it’s not been well maintained.  I started this discussion speaking about the two families who most recently closed.  They will be well positioned for the value of their homes to appreciate, because they had expert assistance picking out their homes.  Their agent (me) helped them make their decision based on all the pertinent factors, not just the ones that would facilitate an emotional decision.  I will actually try to talk people out of making an offer, or following through on a counter, if I think we can do better in our time frame.  This is what it means to be an “agent” of the buyer, versus a salesman.   The difference is, an “agent” is a trusted advisor, where a salesman may put their interests before yours.  Presumably, they will be fair an honest, and they won’t misrepresent anything.  (not if they want to keep their license), but they won’t necessarily look for trouble either.  A trusted advisor will look for trouble to help you avoid problems down the road.  A salesperson wants to make a sale as quickly as possible so they can move onto the next customer. 

Sorry for drifting off topic, but I am very passionate about educating the public about the differences between “client” level services and “customer” level services.  I want to be a member of your trusted advisor team, and for you to recommmend your friends to me down the road.  This means that I have to put your interests before my own, and that my role is to advise you to help you make the best possible decisions, not just ride you around, pop open houses, and deliver your offer. 

Stay tuned for more with July’s real estate market facts, and more on “client” level services.  Thanks for reading. 

Mt. Pleasant Market?? Is this a good time to buy?

 The answer is as usual, it depends??  If you’re a first time home buyer looking to buy in Mt. Pleasant, and you have control over your timing, you might benefit by waiting.  Prices are more likely to drop than they are to go up in my opinion.  But we’ll definately know more in six months.  And you have little to lose by waiting. 

If you’re moving to the area, or for some reason, don’t have this kind of control, I think the timing is good for you.  You should be able to get a better deal than two years ago when multiple contracts were very frequent occurences.  Prices might go a little lower by the end of the year, but so far, they’re holding fairly strong.  The reason why I’m saying to first time home buyers that they might be better off waiting, is more because we’ll know more in six months than we do know…not that prices are definately going down.  So, if you are buying right now, feel good about your situation.  Charleston is still a hot destination.  Every year can’t be as hot as 2005, and 2006 was an excellent year as well.  So still, things are more returing to normal in Charleston.  Make sure you have a good agent representing you, and you should be able to BOTH find the best choices and get a good deal.  It’s possible prices will drop slightly before going back up.  In 2005, if your home in Mt. Pleasant was in a so-so location, or didn’t have great curb appeal, you could still get close to asking price, because buyers didn’t have very much from which to choose. 

Almost everyone makes some sort of trade-offs when buying a home.  If you’re buying now, you have great selection and you have a much better chance of getting all or most of your “nice-to-haves” satisfied versus 2005, when buyers may have been compromising “must haves” both because of the scant selection, and because they had to act so fast to avoid having to compete with another buyer. 

Judge for yourself. 

Sales and Inventory History

Monday, June 25, 2007
Category – Residential / Area: 41, 42

Month Year Monthly Sales Avg ListPrice Avg Sale Price % Diff Sell/list Avg DOM Curr Inventory Months Inventory
January 2004 123 $278,622 $272,218 97.70% 83.0 637 5.18
February 2004 134 $269,017 $265,136 98.56% 73.0 605 4.51
March 2004 202 $306,984 $301,695 98.28% 91.0 567 2.81
April 2004 174 $295,221 $289,983 98.23% 61.0 581 3.34
May 2004 201 $302,589 $299,346 98.93% 53.0 534 2.66
June 2004 246 $314,971 $312,444 99.20% 73.0 508 2.07
July 2004 236 $333,449 $328,154 98.41% 57.0 497 2.11
August 2004 187 $317,158 $314,685 99.22% 47.0 485 2.59
September 2004 157 $321,021 $315,561 98.30% 56.0 437 2.78
October 2004 156 $308,291 $305,020 98.94% 41.0 431 2.76
November 2004 158 $333,331 $326,958 98.09% 40.0 392 2.48
December 2004 194 $316,726 $312,637 98.71% 69.0 376 1.94
  
January 2005 169 $346,989 $338,094 97.44% 60.0 390 2.31
February 2005 187 $296,755 $293,329 98.85% 46.0 403 2.16
March 2005 214 $338,474 $333,567 98.55% 47.0 409 1.91
April 2005 240 $324,477 $320,567 98.79% 43.0 475 1.98
May 2005 241 $339,802 $335,452 98.72% 40.0 481 2.00
June 2005 324 $375,971 $371,017 98.68% 35.0 509 1.57
July 2005 257 $401,070 $395,249 98.55% 40.0 686 2.67
August 2005 279 $384,712 $378,539 98.40% 35.0 723 2.59
September 2005 228 $394,044 $386,245 98.02% 44.0 713 3.13
October 2005 220 $385,501 $379,188 98.36% 40.0 749 3.40
November 2005 247 $312,639 $308,014 98.52% 42.0 794 3.21
December 2005 322 $289,432 $284,302 98.23% 49.0 837 2.60
  
January 2006 198 $381,799 $371,678 97.35% 57.0 910 4.60
February 2006 146 $390,724 $385,140 98.57% 63.0 1172 8.03
March 2006 191 $434,460 $425,638 97.97% 67.0 1316 6.89
April 2006 170 $416,010 $406,886 97.81% 61.0 1382 8.13
May 2006 230 $412,126 $403,485 97.90% 58.0 1509 6.56
June 2006 193 $419,513 $409,645 97.65% 61.0 1557 8.07
July 2006 244 $416,162 $406,240 97.62% 68.0 1666 6.83
August 2006 204 $421,141 $410,018 97.36% 76.0 1666 8.17
September 2006 212 $411,933 $400,191 97.15% 77.0 1704 8.04
October 2006 172 $454,935 $433,791 95.35% 91.0 1756 10.21
November 2006 136 $415,439 $397,467 95.67% 93.0 1720 12.65
December 2006 157 $374,422 $357,116 95.38% 112.0 1588 10.11
  
January 2007 127 $438,884 $422,646 96.30% 98.0 1538 12.11
February 2007 119 $461,424 $442,102 95.81% 130.0 1572 13.21
March 2007 165 $496,216 $480,843 96.90% 126.0 1656 10.04
April 2007 155 $447,657 $431,443 96.38% 104.0 1716 11.07
May 2007 169 $394,783 $380,454 96.37% 96.0 1829 10.82

What is an “Agent”, and are real estate agents really agents?

It depends on who you’re working with.   Most real estate sales training instructs students and new agents to carry a contract in the house and be ready to start filling it out on the kitchen counter.  Most real estate sales training says to try to show as few homes as possible…no more than seven and preferably less.  So, if it seems like the agents with whom you’re working seem a little old school, it’s both because they are, and because most real estate training given today is still pretty old school.  Ongoing real Estate sales training also minimizes the implications of dual agency.  And ongoing real estate sales training addresses why it’s a good time to buy. 

An “Agent” by definition and according to South Carolina’s buyers agency agreement is supposed to be someone that’s looking out for your best interests, putting your interests before not only the other parties, but theirs as well. 

I’m not sure how one could consider it in a buyer’s best interest to rush to fill out a contract, even in the hottest of markets.  I always recommend to my clients to consider their choices carefully.  To me, that means they need to sleep on it…or at a minimum, go have a cup of coffee before coming back to the office. 

And the only way that I could see showing less than about 15 homes is that if I had been out previewing about 30-40 homes before narrowing it down.  In my experience, people are a lot clearer about what they want after they’ve looked at 5-10 and see what some of the possibilities are.  So even if I did do the work to preveiw all those homes, I’d be concerned that I mistakenly eliminated one that would either be right, or highlight a feature the buyer wasn’t aware of that they’d really enjoy. 

Having said all that, I do believe it’s important to be efficient.  All the people with whom we work are busy….do you know anyone who isn’t.   And so our team members strive to make the best possible use of everyone’s time.  But that doesn’t mean taking shortcuts.  And it never means pressuring people.  If it’s time to decide, I find that people generally already know it without me telling them. 

Listen very carefully to what your “agent” says to you over the phone and in your first meeting.  If, after the first day, you feel like you’re being sold, you’re not working with an agent, you’re working with a salesperson…and there is a huge difference.  When push comes to shove, a salesperson will put themselves first, no matter what their agreement says.  An “agent” thinks long-term, wants you to be a raving fan after you’ve completed the process, and never pressures people.  Not only do they desire to protect you every step of the way, they are capable of doing so.  They may or may not be the most “likeable” personality you come across, and may even run across the grain from time to time, because they don’t ever want you to be surprised because they weren’t up front with you.  Or because they allowed you to believe something that wasn’t true. 

One last note, since we’re on this subject.  It requires no “training” to become a real estate agent in South Carolina, you don’t have to actually know how to do anything.  You have to recieve about 60 hours of instruction, none of which is training.  If you want to become a cosmetologist, you recieve training so you can cut and dye hair and do other things cosmetologists do.  You have to perform and demonstrate proficiency in many techniques.  You see, the haircut industry couldn’t survive if they didn’t they didn’t have a labor force on which to draw that they knew could cut hair. 

In real estate, the real estate commission allows salespeople to represent the public as agents.  There is no “agent” license.  So be careful out there.