Columbia Home Sales Drop Again


Columbia home sales drop again
But declines, prices worse across rest of the state


Columbia-area home sales continued to fall in the first two months of 2008, but declines elsewhere were steeper, the South Carolina Realtors reported Thursday.

The report, which included both January and February numbers, showed typical sales prices were 3 percent lower in January than they were in January 2007, but rose 6 percent in February. Statewide, prices fell about 5 percent in January, and rose 1 percent in February.

The number of homes sold fell 7 percent in January and 9 percent in February in the Columbia area. Statewide, the declines were 21 percent for January and 19 percent for February.

A housing slump has plagued the nation and the S.C. coast for more than a year. At the end of last year, the Midlands started feeling the effects. The Columbia area ended the year down 2.4 percent, its first annual decline in the number of homes sold since 2000.

Jim Altman, a residential real estate appraiser and broker in Columbia, said fewer appraisals were ordered last year, but he hasn’t seen price declines in the area.

“Overall, I think the local market is very stable, compared to other parts of the country,” Altman said.

Columbia appraiser Jim Kersey said he began seeing the local market weaken last October with the number of sales falling and prices softening, in part because of mortgage distress.

A year ago, he saw banks offering about eight to 10 homes in the area for sale at prices below their mortgaged value. Now banks are listing about 45 to 50 of these “short sales.”

“I’m seeing more homeowners trying to get out from under mortgage payments,” he said.

Kersey said some downtown neighborhoods are stable, but sales are down sharply in affluent neighborhoods, such as Woodcreek, for homes priced at more than $600,000, and in more modest homes in some Northeast subdivisions.

“There’s a good many foreclosures in the Summit, and prices seem to be down,” he said.

“This is not a good time to try to sell, but it’s a great time to purchase.”

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