The Aiken Board of Realtors has some good news to share. Things are looking up for the real estate business locally based on a report recently released by the organization.
The year-to-date figures for residential transactions through October showed that both pending sales and closed sales were up 13.5 percent.
“I wouldn't call it a recovery anymore; I think we're back into a normal market,” said Kristyne Shelton, the Board of Realtors' association executive. “People understand that it's a good value to buy a home, and it's a smart investment to buy a home. Sometimes, in the under $100,000 category, you can buy a house for cheaper than you could rent it.”
The year-to-date median sale price of $141,500 was down 4.4 percent.
“We have a large inventory of houses in the above $400,000 price range, and that is a hard category make a sale in,” Shelton said. “When you don't sell those big houses, that drives the median price down.”
The most robust part of the housing market was the $100,000 and below price range. Pending sales were up 23.2 percent. In comparison, pending sales increased 12.1 percent in the $200,001 to $300,000 range.
“I was talking to a realtor the other day that had a client looking in the $150,000 and under range,” Shelton said. “She pulled up 10 listings, and, when that client came into town two days later, seven of the listings already had been sold.”
According to Shelton, record-low mortgage rates earlier this year helped the Aiken housing market rebound.
“Lately, they have started to creep up a little bit, and they will creep up a little bit more in 2014,” she said. “But I do think they will be at or below 5 percent next year, so housing still will be a really, really good buy. I believe the real estate market is going to be even better in 2014 than it was in 2013.”
Karl McMillan of the RE/MAX Tattersall Group has seen the most interest this year from buyers seeking houses in the lower end of the market and from people leaving starter homes to move up to the next level.
“That's encouraging news because the ripple effect eventually will continue up into the $300,000 to $500,000 price range where the market has been softer,” he said.
Tad Barber, also of RE/MAX Tattersall, has been encouraged by the developments in the commercial real estate market.
“Activity is picking up,” he said. “We're getting a lot more inquires on properties that were stagnant the first part of the year. Most people are interested in leasing. The ones that are looking to buy are still concerned about the availability of financing. I'm hearing from bankers that they have the money, but I'm hearing from the buyers that they can't get the money because they don't have 25 percent or 30 percent (of the purchase price) to put down.”
Consequently, leasing with an option to buy and owner financing are becoming more popular, according to Barber.
“Creativity is probably the name of the game on real estate's commercial side for now, but I think the bankers are going to start to loosen up soon,” he said.
Barber is looking forward to 2014 and beyond.
“I'm optimistic about the real estate market for the short term and the long term,” he said. “The future is brighter than it has been in the last five years. We're in a revival.”
Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.