Snow put chill on Charlotte home sales in February

03/06/2014 4:01 PM

03/06/2014 4:02 PM

Snow and ice put a big chill on home sales in the Charlotte region in February, causing the first annual decline in sales in nearly three years.

There were 1,877 sales for the month, a decline of 8.4 percent from a year ago, the Charlotte Regional Realtor Association reported Thursday. It was the first year-over-year decline since June 2011.

Heavy snow that fell in the area in the middle of last month was a factor in the drop, the association said.

“Winter weather definitely played a role in disrupting sales and transactional activity across the region in February,” Joe Rempson, president of the association, said in a statement.

Other figures released Thursday give a glimpse of what the spring home buying and selling might be like when it begins this month. Preliminary pending sales for February totaled 2,803. That’s flat from a year ago when mortgage rates were lower.

Prices continued to rise in February amid stubbornly low supplies of homes for sale. The average sales price of $206,384 was 5.7 percent higher than a year ago.

Low supplies are challenging buyers who want more to choose from. Inventory fell to a 4.9-month supply from 5.7 months a year ago. A widely accepted definition of a buyer’s market is one with six months or more of inventory.

Low supplies have been credited with helping prices post sizable annual gains, as some homes attract multiple offers.

Inventory is being kept low by homeowners who remain in negative equity since the housing market collapse, industry insiders say. The expectation is those owners will list their homes once values rise more.

In the Charlotte region, 8.7 percent, or 40,695, properties with a mortgage were in negative equity in the fourth quarter of last year, real estate data firm CoreLogic said Thursday. That was up from 8.4 percent in the third quarter. A borrower in negative equity owes more on the mortgage than the home is worth.

Across the Charlotte metro area, new listings in February were down 10 percent from a year ago, to 3,907 properties.

Snow might not be the only factor that lowered home sales in the region.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors, said last week that, nationally, some potential buyers are being priced out of the market as home prices have risen faster than their incomes. The association said it expects existing home sales to be weak in the first quarter.

Rempson pointed out Thursday that Charlotte’s housing market is still recovering.

“Seller confidence hasn’t been fully restored, and buyers face limited inventory,” he said. “But this is the new normal since 2008.”

The Charlotte-area housing market, he said, “is still trying to stabilize.”

The association’s report covers an 18-county region.

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