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Charlotte home prices, sales rise in November

Home Prices
MARK HAMES - mhames@charlotteobserver.com
Home for sale in the Dilworth area of Charlotte earlier this month.

Charlotte-area home prices rose 9.2 percent on average in November from a year ago, as closings increased and the supply of homes for sale continued its downward streak, the Charlotte Regional Realtor Association said Monday.

Inventory fell to a five-month supply from a 5.3-month level the month before and a 6.5-month supply a year ago, according to the report that tracks only existing-home sales. A balanced housing market has an approximately six-month supply, according to a widely accepted definition.

Low supplies helped drive up prices in November, the association said. The average price rose to $223,725 from $204,820 a year ago. The average price is at its highest level since $237,635 in August.

Another factor in rising prices is fewer sales of distressed homes, which tend to sell for less than nondistressed properties. Foreclosures and short sales accounted for a smaller percentage of sales than a year ago, the association said.

Sales continued their trend of annual gains. November closings rose to 2,619, up 15.2 percent from a year ago. Closings in the region have logged annual gains every month since July 2011.

Compared with October, sales were down 7.5 percent. Real estate brokers say sales tend to slow toward the end of the year, typically a less active time for the housing market.

In Charlotte and elsewhere, brokers are keeping a close eye on persistently low supplies. Last month, the National Association of Realtors said constrained inventory is causing double-digit year-over-year gains in U.S. home prices. Across the 18-county Charlotte region, inventory is at its lowest level since May, when it was also at a five-month supply.

Eric Locher, president of the association, said that although inventories tend to be low this time of year, “it’s even low inventory for this time of year.”

Inventories are unusually low for this time of year because rising mortgage rates pushed many sellers to list their homes in the first half of the year before rates rose further, he said. The fear of rates going higher also encouraged many buyers to make a purchase in the first half of the year, he said.

Mortgage rates rose this year amid speculation that the Federal Reserve might scale back its stimulus efforts, an action the Fed decided in September to defer. According to mortgage giant Freddie Mac, the average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 4.26 percent last month, still near historic lows but up from 3.41 percent in January.

The Charlotte Realtors’ report showed distressed sales made up 8.8 percent of all closings in November, down from 13.3 percent a year ago. That decline comes as foreclosure inventories have fallen nationwide. Real estate data firm CoreLogic said Monday that approximately 879,000 U.S. homes were in some stage of foreclosure in October, down from 1.3 million a year ago.

Short sales and foreclosures are down as lenders have become more open to working with borrowers as their financial situations improve, Locher said, pointing to declines in unemployment rates.

Homes sold faster than they did a year ago. In November, it took 136 days on average from the time a home was listed until it closed, 10 days shorter than a year ago.

Sellers received more of their original listing price than they did a year ago. That amount rose to 93.8 percent from 92.2 percent in November 2012.

Monday’s report follows a report released last week by CoreLogic that showed Charlotte-area home prices rose 7.4 percent in October from a year ago, marking the region’s 22nd consecutive month of annual price gains.

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