Whether one looks at the number of homes sold or the prices, the housing market in Bryan County touched bottom two or three years ago and is trending upward.
“We’re starting to see that little, slow but steady climb back up, which is healthy” said Linda King, a RE/MAX Savannah agent who sells new homes in the Richmond Hill area.
The number of homes sold through real estate agents in Bryan County in 2012 was the highest in five years. Meanwhile, the median price for homes — old and new — rose by $5,000, to $210,900 in 2012 from a low point of $205,500 in 2011. The median price in 2010 had been $208,016.
If 2011 represented the recent low tide for prices, it trailed the ebb in volume by one year. Only 465 homes were sold by Realtors in Bryan County in 2010, before sales picked up to 562 in 2011. In 2012, real estate agents reported sales of 571 homes, making it the best year for volume since 2007, when 602 homes were sold.
These numbers are from the Savannah Area Board of Realtors, or SABOR, and reflect sales reported by member agents through the board’s multiple listings service, or MLS. So they do not include homes sold by owners not represented by agents. The median price is the middle price, or average of two middle prices, in the range of prices during a time period, not an average of all the prices.
King, who is SABOR’s member services vice president this year, ran some numbers from the database and observed that the average selling price of newly built homes in the Richmond Hill ZIP code surpassed the average asking price last year. The average — not median — selling price for new homes under $300,000 was roughly $237,000, while the same homes were advertised for an average price of $236,000.
“This is a good indicator that there is beginning to be faith in the marketplace again,” King said.
Of course, it also suggests that buyers no longer necessarily have an upper hand in negotiating prices. A “buyer’s market” is usually said to exist when the local inventory of homes exceeds a six-month supply. But not every buyer wants just any kind of home, and the question of inventory is complicated.
Data provided by the Savannah Area Board of Realtors shows that with sales averaging 47.58 homes per month for 2012, and 809 homes on the market during the year, Bryan County had an average 17-month inventory. This was down from a peak of more than 18 months in 2010, but still a large number.
However, this inventory total includes older homes and may include homes that have been on the market a while because the price is too high or for other reasons. King and other real estate professionals say the supply of new homes — the homes that some buyers insist on — tightened substantially in 2012.
When talking about new inventory, real estate people distinguish “spec” homes, built on speculation by builders to show and sell, from “custom” homes, built on order from the buyer.
“We have started to run out inventory of existing specs and this year, for the first time in a while, we started to have more custom homes being built,” King said.
In growing developments such as WaterWays Township, more homes could have been sold in 2012 if more spec homes had been ready, she said. Builders wanted to build more, King said, but banks wouldn’t lend the money.
“If we had had more spec houses, we would have done better last year because when we had transferees and military coming in,” she said. “They needed immediate inventory, but because the banks had still been a little bit tight on lending money for spec homes, they limited the number that you could have.”
Military families are a big part of the Bryan County market, especially for new homes. The timing of their moves, she explained, often puts custom construction out of the question.
Read more in the Feb. 27 edition of the News.