Anderson County Feeling National Housing Crunch


Anderson County feeling national housing crunch

By Heidi Cenac
March 9, 2008

Even the stable Upstate housing market is feeling the effects of a looming recession.

As the number of houses on the market starts to outpace the number of buyers, Anderson developer Baylis Maxwell is postponing plans for a 166-lot subdivision and community store at Midway Road, Harriet Circle and Crestview Road.

“It’s just not the right time to start a subdivision,” Mr. Maxwell said.

When he looks at competitors’ developments, some are fine and others are “dead in the water.” Realtors tell him the biggest reason for the slowdown is that retirees and people in other markets can’t sell the houses they are in to buy houses here.

Anderson County’s absorption rate — the real estate market’s ability to sell off the houses for sale — dropped slightly from 16 in January to 14.7 February. But a 14.7-month supply of houses still is pretty high, said Tom Carr, a Realtor at the Elizabeth Gray-Carr Team in Anderson.

“We’ve got to get that down by either selling more homes or having fewer homes on the market,” Mr. Carr said.

Transactions on the Western Upstate Multiple Listing Service — a database of houses for sale in Anderson, Oconee and Pickens counties — were down 16 percent in January compared to the same month last year.

In Anderson County, 93 homes were sold in January this year compared with 113 during January 2007.

Last month brought more of the same. According to data pulled from the multiple listing service, 113 homes were sold in February 2003 compared with 133 in February 2007.

The good news for homebuyers in Anderson is that home values have remained relatively stable. A fourth quarter Zillow Home Value Report, which includes all homes in the Anderson area, not just those listed for sale, showed that home values in Anderson County bucked the nation’s depreciation trend.

Anderson County’s “Zindex” for 2007 — the median estimate of the market value homes in a certain area — was $102,408, up 5.6 percent year over year.

“Anderson has enjoyed a very stable real estate market without large fluctuations in values,” said Dave Chamblee, broker in charge at Anderson Area Properties.

And some areas, including west Anderson County and the Hartwell Lake waterfront, actually saw more homes sold in February this year than last year.

The National Association of Realtors has started running ads on Upstate radio and television stations telling consumers why now is the best time to buy. And according to Mr. Chamblee, that’s not just propaganda.

The combination of strong inventory and low interest rates means buyers can find houses that really match what they want in a home, he said.

Just don’t expect homeowners to give their investment away.

Mr. Carr’s office has seen a few offers from buyers trying to get a house for well below the asking price, and the offers haven’t been accepted. With the sales-to-list ratio above 95 percent, sellers don’t feel they have to give it away, he said.

Builders and Realtors are hoping the housing market will pick up in the spring when building typically is busiest.

Mr. Maxwell said two of his subdivisions, Austin Oaks and Ashland Oaks are seeing increased interest from buyers. Mr. Carr said his office is still on pace with new listings and has seen steady demand for showings.

“Buyers are still out there,” he said.
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