The nation is in the grips of one of the toughest crises since the Great Depression, but people in Charleston are still buying houses. This likely will come as a surprise to residents, and even local Realtors don't quite understand why the market has remained steady during the pandemic.
According to several real estate experts in Charleston, the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed business some, but overall things have continued at an even pace.
"I work primarily West Ashley, downtown, James Island, and I've had business every day," says Charlie Smith of CSA Real Estate Services.
Smith says that this is typically the best time of year for buying and selling houses, so it does "really hurt" that things have slowed. Stopping short of saying things are good, Smith notes that they're "moving," which is better than he expected.
Chucktown Homes owner Donald Russell says his business is "picking back up a little bit," after some sales fell through when buyers lost financing for their home purchases. Russell adds that he has a "very optimistic" outlook for the coming months.
Numbers for last month show an 11.2 percent drop in new listings compared to March 2019, but a 10.8 percent increase in sales of single-family dwellings. The Charleston Trident Association of Realtors (CTAR) notes Charleston County's median sales price has increased 7.3 percent compared to this time last year. Across the board, inventory levels are down 21.8 percent.
"The Charleston market is holding up nicely," Bobette Fisher, CTAR president, says. "We've seen a tremendous drop-off in showings, but what's really interesting is that we are seeing a rebound now."
Some clients who are ready to sell their home don't currently have it on the market out of caution, says Jennifer LePage of JJL Real Estate. "They're not in a rush to have it listed because they don't really want people through their home," she says. "The inventory is low right now, and it's probably going to pick up pretty well once this is over."
In another report for March, CTAR predicts the county is "likely to see impacts to housing activity now and into the coming months," but they do not describe the extent of the impacts.
LePage says she expected a much bigger slowdown and the current market situation is far better than it could be. "I think we'll have a pretty steady pace through the summer," she says. "Hopefully once everything starts to come back online, we'll see some activity there. Usually we have a strong Spring and it kind of peaks in June."
A National Association of Realtors survey from April shows over half of sellers are delaying the sale of their homes for a couple months, but 74 percent of home sellers' clients have not lowered prices on their homes. This seems to suggest, the NAR said in an online statement last week, that home sellers are staying calm.