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Charleston tops nation in home price hikes

Originally Published on 2/12/98
Page: A1 (Front Page News)
Keyword: Housing; Real estate; Survey

Home prices rose last year in Charleston more than anywhere else in the nation, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday.

The median sales price of an existing home in the Charleston metropolitan area rose 16.7 percent, from $94,700 in the fourth quarter of 1996 to $110,500 in the fourth quarter of 1997, the association said. Median means half sold for more and half for less.

The second highest increase in the nation was 15.5 percent in Des Moines, Iowa.

Nationally, the median price for existing homes rose 6.2 percent, from $117,600 in the fourth quarter of 1996 to $124,800 a year later.

Prices rose as demand for houses was fueled by a strong economy and low interest rates. The average rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage was 7.2 percent at the end of 1997, compared with 7.71 percent a year earlier, according to Freddie Mac.

"Rates haven't been this low since the winter of 1995," said association economist John A. Tuccillo. "But then we didn't have the same factors - stronger consumer confidence, lower unemployment - that we do now. Add those with the volatile activity of Asian markets, and real estate makes a strong attraction for all investors."

In the Charleston area, demand for houses has been especially strong in the Mount Pleasant area, said Grange Cuthbert, chief executive officer of the coastal offices of The Prudential Carolinas Realty.

"Inventory is down significantly, so prices will go up," Cuthbert said. "It's just a case of supply and demand."

Some agents have reported being able to sell houses in Mount Pleasant without bothering to list them, said Charleston Trident Multiple Listing Service president Malaina Pate, who owns Pate Properties of Charleston. "Everybody tells me that demand is high and inventory is low," she said.

Prices of historic homes in peninsular Charleston have risen sharply as the demand has increased and the inventory of available homes has dropped.

Even with the increases, house prices in Charleston are a bargain compared with many other regions of the country, said Cuthbert, who also works with the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce to attract new businesses.

"Charleston is still a very affordable place to live," he said.

Elsewhere in South Carolina, existing home prices rose 6.5 percent in Columbia and 5.1 percent in Greenville, according to the association.

Regionally, existing home prices increased 7.4 percent in the West, 7 percent in the Midwest, 6.9 percent in the South and 4. percent in the Southeast.

The Charleston MLS does not separate new sales and resales in its database.

So the national association uses various formulas and figures on new-home sales from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to isolate existing home sales.


Here are the top markets for increases in the median price of an existing home last year. The prices and percentage increases are for the fourth quarter of 1997 compared to the same quarter in 1996:

(Begin Table)
1 Charleston, SC $110,000 16.7%
2 Des Moines, IA $103,000 15.5%
3 San Francisco, CA $304,000 14.1%
4 Ft. Meyers, FL $88,000 13.5%
5 Lexington, KY $106,000 11.9%
6 Sarasota, FL $117,000 11.8%
7 Champaign, IL $85,000 11.7%
8 Memphis, TN $105,000 11.5%
9 Dallas, TX (Tie) $114,000 11.2%
9 Canton, OH (Tie) $98,000 11.2%
(End Table)

Source: National Association of Realtors

ED: Dave Munday can be reached at 937-5720 or at DMunday@PostandCourier.Com.

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