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Report: S.C. real estate market strong in 2019, may slow in 2020

Real Estate - Residential
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Residential real estate in South Carolina enjoyed a positive 2019, and realtors expect the growth to continue through the early part of 2020.

The Annual Report of the South Carolina Housing Market compiled by South Carolina Realtors (.pdf) found closed sales increased 4% in 2019 to 91,140, while new listings increased 4% to 120,210. The overall median sale price rose 7.5% to $215,000, though the number of homes available for sale dropped 3.9%.

“The real estate market in South Carolina continues to be strong. The entire state has people moving in. People are selling their homes. People are buying and we’re excited about the market that we have,” said Owen Tyler, president of South Carolina Realtors. “Inventory is low and it continues to drop across the state as a whole. If we had more homes to sell, we would sell more homes. There is a demand for people to buy homes in South Carolina.”

Tyler said some of that demand comes from people moving here from other states.

“I don’t think that’s any surprise that we’re a destination for people to move to,” he said.

Economic development statewide also contributes to high sales and high home prices, the report found. Growth and demand have been strong statewide, with median sale prices growing in all regions in 2019.

“As long as we continue with a good, economic output in the state, as long as we can be a business-friendly environment, people will come. Companies will come. That will create jobs and that will keep our unemployment rate at what I believe is a historically low unemployment number for South Carolina,” Tyler said.

State unemployment dropped to a record low of 2.3% in December 2019.

Prices climbed to an average price accumulation rate of 6% in South Carolina in 2019, said Brad Allen, co-owner and broker-in-charge at Art of Real Estate in Columbia.

“Overall, people are making more money (and) houses are selling faster, in a shorter amount of time. I will say buyers are taking a little bit more time to buy a house, but overall, it’s going well,” he said.

What also helps the market are low interest rates and potential buyers getting financing, insiders say.

“I’m seeing lenders e-mailing almost weekly or monthly saying ‘We can take lower credit scores now,’ ” Allen said. “There’s less down payment. There are programs that are coming out that require no down payment at all. So I think it’s as easy as it has ever been to get a mortgage.”

The South Carolina State Housing Finance and Development Authority reported granting a record amount of loans to homeowners in 2019. Programs are available to help potential buyers finance a mortgage, including the Homebuyer Program, Palmetto Home Advantage, and Mortgage Tax Credit Certificate. Loan volume in the 2019 Homebuyer Program was up almost 50% over the same period in 2018, according to a news release from the authority.

Tyler and South Carolina Realtors expect the strong real estate market will continue into 2020 for both residential and commercial properties, with interest rates expected to remain relatively low and steady. Realtor.com ranked Columbia in the top 10 markets for 2020.

“As we look at 2020, we see continued low mortgage rates and a healthy economy giving a great start to housing in the new year,” the annual report said.

 “You will see a better understanding of how the second half of the year goes, but we’re not looking for any drastic downturn,” Tyler said. “The economic numbers provided by the National Association of Realtors for the projections are extremely high, as well as those provided by the state of South Carolina and (economist) Joey Von Nessen with the University of South Carolina, so we don’t see a downturn in housing coming forward.”

An election year causes some economic uncertainty. Allen said there’s typically a slowdown in sales in August and September, and the 2020 presidential election could cause people to delay decisions until after the new year starts. He anticipates the fourth quarter will be slower than expected.

“Prices are still affordable and attainable,” Allen said. “The quality of houses are still there. So even though there’s not a lot of inventory for buyers to choose from, there’s still possibilities to buy houses with the right people.”

Reach Renée Sexton at 803-726-7546.

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