Folks it’s time to buy again. After a couple of years of declining values, Charlotte’s housing market is poised to rebound. “What?” Has the state of Charlotte’s housing gotten you totally confused? Have you been hearing war stories about declining prices? You are not alone. It has been a long and messy road. Politicians have no clue what to do other than to blame each other and “Bank greed”, plan the demise of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and argue over the fate of the mortgage interest deduction. Even Robert Schiller and Karl Case, the creators of the Case Shiller indices are offering contrasting views. Shiller thinks we have a chance for an additional double digit drop in housing prices, while Karl Case is arguing that the lack of home building is reeving an engine that makes him very optimistic about the future of the economy.
From Charlotte MLS, March 2011 was essentially flat verses March 2010 at 1903 homes sold. Compared to 1900 in March 2010. The average closing price was down 1.6%, March to March; and 76% of homes sold in March 2011 were priced under $250,000. 54.2 percent of listed homes closed in 121+ days. On a little more positive note, in areas 4, 5, 6, and 99 a total of 323 homes sold in March totaling $97,231,735.
From the National Association of Realtors, existing home sales are up 3.7% in March over February marking six consecutive monthly rises in existing home sales.
Here is my take:
Finally Charlotte is experiencing job growth. We continue to have positive net migration to the area and we can believe that the banks will survive. Charlotte has gotten the message that it needs some new corporate heroes- enter Duke Energy, Shaw industries, and Electrolux among others. It is cheaper to own than rent. Mortgage rates are starting to move up off a historically low base, and most importantly what looked like a glut of housing a couple of years ago will very shortly look like a shortage of housing.
- Unemployment is showing signs of abating. Unemployment in the Charlotte Metro area dropped to 10.7% in February from 11.2% in January according to the NC Employment Security Commission. In Mecklenburg County unemployment in February was 10.2%. North Carolina’s rate dropped to 9.7% in February down from 9.8% in January and 11.4% in February of last year.
- According to the latest census numbers since 2000 the population in the Charlotte Metro area has grown 32.1%. Additionally Moody’s Analytics published in July 2010 show the Charlotte Metro Statistical Region growing at a rate of more than 2% per year thru 2014.
- There are now 2.3 trillion in bank assets based in Charlotte, 2nd only to New York City. Welcome US Bank, Ally Bank and Wells Fargo.
- Duke Energy, with its recent acquisition of Progress Energy is now the largest utility in the country, and maybe more importantly their management group lead by Jim Rogers has taken the lead in the discussion and development of alternative energy. The Shaw Group, Inc., the Louisiana based company that moved its power group here a couple of years ago just announced that it is looking for up to 350,000 square feet to consolidate and expand its presence in Center City Charlotte. Combined with Piedmont Natural Gas, SPX and Siemens Energy Service Division Charlotte is emerging as a national energy hub.
- There is arguably a new “affordability” in home ownership. According to the National Association of Realtors March housing affordability index on a medium priced home is 13% of gross household income. The lowest % since they started keeping records in 1970. Additionally from a new report by Deutsche Bank that measures affordability in two ways- as a percentage of income and the cost of owning verses renting- it can be argued that the foundation has been laid for “dramatic” recovery. Deutsche bank analysis finds that home owners are paying 9.8% of their income in after-tax mortgage, tax, and insurance down from 17.2 % in 2007. This is the lowest number in their data base going back to 1999. The second measure finds that in 28 out of 54 major markets, it’s cheaper to own than it is to rent the same house, thanks to fairly dramatic decreases in home prices in many cases up to 30% (much of our market would qualify) and continued low interest rates. These factors may not move the Charlotte market tomorrow and as it moves it is likely to be uneven, but they will have a positive effect soon.
- The Catalyst apartment tower just sold for a record price $103,300,000 or approximately $223,500 per apartment. Wasn’t that 462 unsold, center city condominiums that were going to be a drag on the condo sales market? There has been almost no new construction in Charlotte in the last couple of years, with good reason from foreclosures and empty inventory to bank re-capitalization, but when the market starts to come back it will take a good three years to refill the new construction pipeline. Again from the Deutsche Bank Metrostudy report that covers 2/3 of US markets, new construction inventory stands at less than 23% of the 2006 levels.
- The stock market has recovered much of its 2008 losses- half of the wealth effect is back in place.
Nationally according to the National association of Realtor’s Index pending home sales in March are up 5.1% and up 10% in the South. These figures are off of a weak base, but they are headed up. We are out there every day and can feel the change. As per Jarvis Slade Christie’s managing director of the Americas, “It’s the new financial psychology, we’ve had two years of hesitation, the sellers are realistic, the buyers confident and cautious, but Americans are starting to feel better.” There is more cleaning up to do. In February, Case Schiller Home Price Index of the 20 largest metro areas, reports Charlotte Metro home prices down (1.2%) from January, and down (5%) since February 2010 with a price index of 110.21.
Case Shiller home price Index
Selected Metro Areas Feb 11’ change from Jan change from 2010
Charlotte 110.21 (1.2%) (5.0%)
Atlanta 99.45 (.5%) (5.8%)
Miami 138.44 (2%) (6.2%)
New York 165.19 (.5%) (3.1%)
Washington 181.33 (.1%) +2.7
Composite 139.27 (1.1%) (3.3%)
The indexes have a base value of 100 in January 2000; so a current index of 110 equals a 10% appreciation since January 2000 for a typical home in the metro area.
The Charlotte market has become price driven, but the list of examples of “right priced” successes is growing rapidly. There are Buyers out there looking for value priced superior product. Condominiums are selling in Dilworth, Southend, and Center City in volume when priced 30% below their original new construction levels. By mid-April we were seeing multiple offers on houses in Myers Park and Eastover priced at levels 30% off peak. These new prices will get woven into the market and become the comparable standards for appraisals. Then demand can return in volume. Once that happens there should be a shift in demand stress forcing rising prices.
Here is a neighborhood summary for 2011 YTD
Market Activity by MLS Area/ Month Single Family and Condominiums/ Townhomes
|# Active Listings||Avg. Listing Price||# New Listings||Avg. Listing Price||# Sold Listings||Avg. Selling Price||% of List|
|Area 4/1 Southeast Mecklenburg including Eastover|
|Area 4/2 including Cotswold|
|Area 5/1 including Myers Park|
|Area 5/2 including Foxcroft|
|Area 6/1 including Dilworth & Southend|
|Area 99 Center City Charlotte|
“Based on information from the Carolina Multiple Listing Services, Inc. for the period Jan. 2011 thru April 2011 Areas 4/1, 4/2, 5/1, 5/2, 6/1 and 99.”
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