Mary Davenport, a real estate agent in Kitty Hawk, said Monday a falling stock market has brought a wave of second-home clients to her business.
In the last 30 days, the Re/Max Realtor said between sessions at the N.C. Association of Realtors convention in Charlotte, she's closed two sales, put three homes under contract and listed five new ones.
The reason: Clients discouraged with the stock market are shifting assets into second homes, and sellers are seeing opportunities, she said.
But Lori Bee, a Waxhaw Realtor, told a much different story. Her business, she said, is down 50 percent this year because of the troubled economy and Union County policies that have slowed home construction there.
More than 830 Realtors from across the state have gathered at the Charlotte Convention Center through Wednesday, attending such sessions as “Six Great Ways to Build Your Business in 2009” and “Why Realtors Should Care about Soil.”
Even as sales have fallen in the Carolinas and across the country, the mood of the convention was determinedly upbeat. Many who talked to the Observer said their sales are still good, and some are expecting a better year than 2007. Even those who said sales are off quickly listed positives – great deals for buyers and sellers who are more willing to price for a quick sale.
Kevin Brafford, the association's communications director, said attendance is down from about 1,000 last year in Myrtle Beach, and called it “economy-related.” But the convention's exhibition hall was buzzing, with booths touting everything from software to jewelry.
June Jerome, a 30-year Realtor who operates June Jerome Realty in Burnsville in the Yancey County mountains, said she's also seeing rejuvenation in the second-home market because of reverses in the stock market.
“People are really wanting to go into real estate because you can't lose it as long as you pay your payments,” she said. She's seen a surge in demand lately for three-bedroom, two-bath homes in the $400,000 range.
Charlotte region Realtors had mixed reports.
For the first eight months of 2008, sales through the Carolina Multiple Listing Services were down 28 percent compared with the same period a year ago. In Mecklenburg County, single-family house building permits were down 53 percent through August.
Sherry Hopkins, a 25-year Realtor who works for Prudential Carolinas Realty in Charlotte, said her sales are down about 20 percent from last year, “but we continue to show homes and sell homes.”
She said sales for homes priced below $200,000 have slowed, while those in the $400,000 to $600,000 range are doing better. Charlotte homes, particularly those in South Charlotte, are doing better than those in adjoining counties, partly because of the rise in gas prices, she said.
But Maureen Pauley, a 11-year Realtor with Century 21 Realty, Murphy & Rudolph, had a different take. She said she's seeing homes priced under $200,000 sell the best. The number of her sales is down from the same time last year, she said, but total income from commissions is about the same.
Mark Lisy, Pauley's sales supervisor, quickly noted that Charlotte's market is vigorous, compared with cities elsewhere. Supplies are plentiful and interest rates are still low, he added. “It all boils down to confidence in the housing market,” he said.