Allen Norwood

Sales rebound in uptown Charlotte

Late last year, home sales in uptown Charlotte were lagging well behind sales for the entire county. The contrast was stark.

Now, uptown sales are up dramatically – while Mecklenburg sales have actually dipped a bit.

What happened? One explanation is that the 800-pound gorilla has left the market.

That behemoth would be the collection of Wall Street-backed investors that snapped up homes at deep discounts during the downturn, planning to rent them. They were primarily interested in single-family homes priced around $150,000. They accounted for 20 percent of sales in the metro market, according to one report, and 25 percent of sales in Mecklenburg.

But not uptown, where rentals in condo and townhouse communities often are restricted.

“Investors leaving didn’t have an impact (uptown), because they were never here,” said T.J. Larsen of My Townhome, who tracks the uptown market.

Here’s a quick look at the turnaround.

In October of last year, Mecklenburg sales were up 12 percent. Not skyrocketing, but solid, thanks in part to purchases by investors.

The sales figures for uptown fairly jumped off the page – because closings there were DOWN 13 percent.

The Carolina Multiple Listing Services report for June just came out, and the contrast is again eye-catching. Closings uptown are UP 29 percent – while closings in Mecklenburg fell 1.6 percent.

Uptown is continuing to improve, while the rest of the market has to make up the void left by investors.

While values haven’t returned to their peak, he said, appreciation remains solid. Families who want to live uptown are shopping, perhaps buying now before prices rise further.

“We’ve got more owner-occupants looking now,” he said. “They’re back, and it’s good to see them return.”

Those looking for steals aren’t quite as prevalent.

There aren’t as many foreclosures in the top buildings, and those that do become available sometimes lead to bidding wars. In the heat of the competition, he said, it’s easy to pay too much.

Those who own uptown will be glad to know that Larsen expects to see values continue to rebound.

The uptown market is unique in that inventory can change dramatically, very quickly. One day there’s a shortage of condos in the most popular price range. The next day a new building opens and there’s a surplus.

“Right now we have 109 (homes) on the market uptown,” Larsen said this week. “A new building opens up ... and it can quadruple that in one day.”

But he doesn’t see anything looming, at least through next year.