Triangle home sales up 39 percent in July as supply remains tight

dbracken@newsobserver.comAugust 13, 2013 

Triangle home sales surged 39 percent in July compared with a year ago as the market continued its run of strong sales months this summer.

The numbers continue to show a tightening market where home prices are gradually rising while the inventory of homes for sale remains at near-historic levels.

There were just 7,766 homes on the market in Durham, Johnston, Orange and Wake counties at the end of the month, Triangle Multiple Listing Services data show. Inventory levels are down more than 10 percent from a year ago and off 35 percent from two years ago.

The region has just a three-month supply of homes on the market at the current pace of sales. With so few homes available, those that are on the market are selling more quickly. The average days on the market of the homes that sold in July was 69 days, down from 112 days during the same period last year.

“Buyers are having to relinquish control over the market,” said Jason Graves, an agent with Triangle Real Estate Group.

That’s particularly true in areas of the Triangle seeing the greatest demand, such as homes priced at $300,000 and below in Raleigh and Cary.

‘Move-in ready’ still matters

But Graves cautioned that this shift doesn’t mean that sellers suddenly no longer have to worry about the competition, or about raised expectations from buyers.

“You still have to look better than everyone else does. Move-in ready is still very important,” he said. “Buyers are still nervous. They’re just trying to get off the fence before interest rates go up to 5 or 6 percent.”

The lack of inventory on the market in the Triangle is directly connected to home prices, which have been slow to rise in the region. The average closing price of the homes that sold in July was $251,300, up 4.6 percent from the same period a year ago, according to MLS.

That level of appreciation is in line with the most-recent increases reported by real estate data provider CoreLogic. Home prices increased 5.6 percent in the Raleigh-Cary market in June compared with the same period a year ago, according to CoreLogic. Prices in the Durham-Chapel Hill market increased 5.2 percent over that same period.

Recovery still uneven

But Stacey Anfindsen, a Cary appraiser who analyzes MLS data for area real estate agents, said sellers shouldn’t automatically assume that their homes have appreciated by those levels. The recovery in the Triangle has played out unevenly, with lower-price homes in attractive neighborhoods benefiting the most.

“It’s the average for the overall market, and the majority of gains have been in the lower-priced housing and not in the upper-priced housing,” Anfindsen said.

Graves said the sales activity this summer reflects a return to the normal seasonal trends that were in place before the downturn. In the years immediately after the bubble burst, he said, the activity in the market was tied more to economic news.

Graves said the market also still faces hurdles. He recently put a client’s home on the market on the same day that she lost her job. “That’s stuff is still happening. … People are still losing their jobs,” he said. “The employment market isn’t where it needs to be.”

Bracken: 919-829-4548

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