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MetLife heats up Ballantyne home-sales market

MetLife is livening up the south Charlotte real estate market, a market that was lively to begin with.

Real estate brokers said they’ve begun gearing up for an increase in home sales after the life insurance giant’s announcement this week that it will bring 1,380 jobs to Ballantyne Corporate Park.

MetLife’s announcement prompted Brian Cillian to finally put his town house, listed for $234,400, up for sale. He said he had been on the fence about selling the home, which is across the street from the corporate park. The MetLife announcement, though, “was kind of the tipping point,” he said.

Kam Pardasani, a Wilkinson & Associates broker, said he expects to see a rise this summer in MetLife employees looking for homes in the Charlotte area. And he’ll get to help the employees find homes: Charlotte-based Wilkinson is among the local real estate companies that have been picked to help the first wave of MetLife employees search for housing.

New York-based MetLife plans to create a retail operations hub in Ballantyne, with jobs expected to pay about $80,000. The company expects to transfer some employees to Charlotte from New Jersey and elsewhere, but also hire some here. MetLife spokeswoman Meghan Lantier said the employees will begin moving into Ballantyne Corporate Park by mid-November.

Some MetLife employees have already put homes under contract in south Charlotte, according to those with knowledge of the sales. Brokers for other companies say they are doing what they can to make sure MetLife workers learn about their listings.

Katy Bradfield, a broker and Realtor with Helen Adams Realty, said she’s hoping to make some home sales to MetLife workers.

“I will be pursuing people I know to see if I can help anybody with MetLife find a house,” she said.

Real estate brokers say they expect MetLife employees to heavily eye south Charlotte, Matthews, Weddington and Waxhaw as well as York County, S.C.

But the options in some parts of south Charlotte will be limited, some brokers say, thanks to dwindling housing inventory in the Charlotte area as the market swings in favor of sellers.

Pardasani said he helped employees of Chiquita Brands International find homes as that company moved its headquarters from Cincinnati to Charlotte last year. But it will be harder for him to find homes this time around, as housing inventory continues to drop across the Charlotte region.

“It’s a little more challenging than it was in the past,” he said.

Multiple offers signal strengthening market

Even without MetLife employees moving to Charlotte, brokers say, the area’s real estate business has been strengthening. Brokers are reporting multiple offers being made more often. Relocating MetLife employees could further reduce inventory and put upward pressure on prices, they say.

Asked to describe inventory in just Ballantyne, Bill Charles, a broker with Re/Max Executive Realty, who sells homes in the neighborhood, said: “It’s terrible.”

“With or without MetLife, we don’t have enough houses for sale today,” he said. “The prices will have to start going up. There’s a shortage of supply right now on good inventory.”

Peggy Peterson, a broker for Cottingham Chalk Hayes, said there’s a “serious lack of inventory” of homes selling for $350,000 to $750,000 in south Charlotte.

Mecklenburg County’s Area 5, which includes Ballantyne among many other neighborhoods, had a three-month supply of homes for sale in March, down from an 8.6-month supply in March 2012, according to the Charlotte Regional Realtor Association.

That was slightly less than the overall supply for the county, which had a 3.2-month supply of homes in March, down from 8.2 months a year ago.

The association tracks statistics for existing homes, not those for newly built homes.

Basking Ridge, N.J.-based Cornerstone Relocation Group is helping MetLife coordinate the employee relocation, and the employees will be house-hunting with the aid of Wilkinson & Associates and Charlotte-based Cottingham Chalk Hayes. Cornerstone could not be reached for comment, and it was unclear Thursday what other Charlotte area real estate firms, if any, might also be involved in the relocations.

Cornerstone has created a Web page for MetLife employees moving to Charlotte and Cary, where the company also plans to add about 1,300 jobs. The page features information on Charlotte-area schools, home prices, tax rates and weather, among many other things.

Average sales price in Ballantyne increases

For MetLife employees interested in living in Ballantyne, home prices are up in ZIP code 28277, which includes Ballantyne, from a year ago, said Bradfield, the Helen Adams Realty broker, who sells homes mostly in Ballantyne.

The average sales price for 28277 was $304,954 from April 2012 to this past March, she said, up from $288,418 for the same period in 2011.

Brian Hackett put his house near Ballantyne Corporate Park up for sale last month. The home, listed for $437,000, is in the Piper Glen neighborhood, about a six-minute drive to the park.

Hackett said the fact that MetLife workers will be relocated to Charlotte makes him hopeful about his home’s chances of selling.

“This is good news,” he said.

Ben Bowen, president of Cornelius-based Ben Bowen Properties, said it’s unlikely his small firm will be tapped by MetLife’s relocation company to search for homes for its employees. Still, determined to get a slice of the action, he said he’s already provided MetLife’s human resources department with information on homes for sale in the Charlotte area.

“I’ve got half a dozen million-dollar houses (listed in south Charlotte),” he said Thursday. “I’m hoping some of their executives are going to be in the market for that.”

Roberts: 704-358-5248; On Twitter: @DeonERoberts
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