Wilmington-area home sale prices fueled by tight inventory

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Home sales in the Wilmington, N.C., area finished the summer strong and steady, according to August figures from the Cape Fear Realtors.

And while September’s numbers are skewed due to last September’s Hurricane Florence, which basically shut down the local housing market for weeks, officials expect sales figures to stay robust for the rest of 2019.

Sherry Pridgen, president of the local Realtors group, said she was “very optimistic” that the market should stay bullish through the rest of 2019 and into 2020, especially due to low interest rates, which could possibly even drop more if President Trump has his wish, and consumer confidence still strong.

“You combine those two and that’s just a win-win situation for everyone,” she said.

In August, home sales in the Wilmington area’s three counties — New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties — were up nearly 4% over August 2018’s levels.

In New Hanover County, it was 6%, and the average sale price also surged 7.4% to $315,667.

Pender County saw the biggest price jump, with the average sale price increasing 12.3% to $306,194.

The Brunswick housing market in August was up slightly compared to August 2018, with sales up 1% and prices up 3.4%, according to the association’s figures.

One factor that’s driving home prices upward is a lack of supply. In New Hanover, the monthly supply in August fell 20% from August 2018. That also could have contributed to homes selling faster, with the median days on market dropping three days to 17 days in August.

Wilmington, N.C.

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Pridgen, a Realtor with Coastwalk Real Estate in Carolina Beach, said that lack of inventory is good news for sellers.

“A lot of people think the spring market is the only time to sell, but the fall/winter markets are also very good for sellers because a lot of people are still ready to move, ready to buy, especially if they’re retired or coming from up North.”

That sentiment was echoed by Cynthia Walsh, chief executive officer of the Brunswick County Association of Realtors.

“Prices are up, the inventory remains tight, and homes are selling at a good clip, all pointing to a competitive sellers’ market as fall approaches,” she said in a press release about August’s sales numbers.

Homes under $300,000 are especially hot right now.

“Those just fly off the charts as soon as they come up,” Pridgen said, noting the impact rising land prices — especially in New Hanover County — is impacting that segment of the market.

That tight property market is also reflected in Wilmington’s apartment market, where rents were up 5.6% in September compared to September 2018. That compares to a 2.7% increase for North Carolina and a 1.4% increase nationally, according to Apartment List.

While Hurricane Florence obviously played a role in the price spike, rising demand from folks who either don’t want to buy or are delaying a home purchase also has helped fuel that market.

Year-over-year, home sales in the Cape Fear region through August were roughly on pace with 2018’s numbers. While the number of sales were down 3%, prices were up 5.2% and the median days on market was down eight days.

For the rest of the year, officials are expecting a strong showing, especially as the market shakes off any lingering hangover from Florence and August’s Hurricane Dorian.

“We’re in a great position compared to last year,” Pridgen said.

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