COLUMBIA, SC: Home prices spike 7 percent in March in Columbia | Chappaqua NY Homes

Long-suffering home sellers got a reprieve in March, when home prices jumped 7 percent in the Columbia area.

But real estate experts say sellers need to stay realistic as the Midlands real estate market emerges from a steep downturn.

While rising home prices are a healthy sign, said Andy Walker, partner in the Bollin Ligon Walker real estate firm in Columbia, price should not be an isolated factor.

“If you’re thinking about selling your house, I wouldn’t be out there thumping my chest saying, ‘Prices are up 7 percent, I’m going to start asking more,’ because I think that could be a huge mistake,” Walker said.

The median price – the point at which half the homes sold for more and half for less – for homes that sold in Midlands in March was $144,325, according to a report Monday from the S.C. Realtors trade group. That’s up from $135,000 in March a year ago.

It was the first increase in median price this year, according to S.C. Realtors’ monthly reports.

In South Carolina, the median price of homes sold statewide bumped up 5 percent in March to $151,600, with 11 out of 16 regions showing gains.

Homeowners anxious to sell have been under price pressure for four to five years now, as first the housing bust, then a busted economy, played out. It is still a buyer’s market, however, Walker said, and if sellers start optimistically pricing homes higher, the likely effect is homes will be on the market for longer periods of time, he said.

“The 7 percent (does not mean) the same house that sold last year is now selling for 7 percent more,” said Nick Kremydas, S.C. Realtors’ chief executive officer. “What it’s indicating in general is that the houses that are selling now, their prices are up by 7 percent, so it’s not apples to apples.”

Still, a rise in housing prices is a positive sign, indicating shrinking inventory and increased buyer demand, Kremydas said. “We started the year at a 50-year-low (of new housing construction starts),” Kremydas noted. “And foreclosures … have shrunk considerably.”

Even lending, while still difficult, has improved and consumer confidence also is up, Kremydas said.

Statewide, housing inventory levels are down 40 percent from two years ago, and there are reports across the state of multiple buyers bidding for one house – typical during the overheated housing market of 2005-2007 but unheard of in recent years – he said.

The Columbia area had about a 10-month supply of homes for sale in March – down from a more than 16-month peak less than two years ago. It continues to move toward balance. The $100,000-and-under category had about an eight-month supply of homes available. A normal market has about a six-month supply, experts say, and supply affects price.

“When a market favors buyers, prices are not going to go up very much, if at all,” Walker said. As supply reduces, prices will firm up more, he said.

The Columbia-area multiple listing service, on which the monthly real estate reports are based, includes a seven-county area: Richland, Lexington, Saluda, Fairfield, Kershaw, Calhoun and Newberry counties.

“What’s happening with mobile homes in Kershaw County or Lexington County, or anywhere, and what’s happening with properties on Lake Murray, versus what’s happening to properties in Spring Valley can be a wide variety of trends, in my opinion,” said Walker, president of SC Realtors in 2008 and Central Carolina Realtors Association president in 2002 and 2012.

“If you want to know what properties are doing in your neighborhood or in your part of town, you need to consult somebody,” Walker said.

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