Living Here Guide

Pricey, scarce and rising fast: Charlotte’s real estate market is fierce

A home for sale along Hillside Avenue in Charlotte, where prices keep rising fast. Photo by David T. Foster III.
A home for sale along Hillside Avenue in Charlotte, where prices keep rising fast. Photo by David T. Foster III.

How you react to Charlotte’s real estate market these days likely has a lot to do with where you’re from.

If you’re coming to the city from a high-priced market like San Francisco, New York or Washington, D.C., you might wonder if your landlord left a zero off your rent, or if the house listed as a five-bedroom, 4.5-bathroom is meant to be a group home. But if you’re a new Charlottean from cheaper locales like Buffalo or eastern North Carolina, you’re likely to get sticker shock.

So, what’s the view like from within Charlotte? Simply put, the city is fast becoming a more expensive place to live, with a housing market that’s getting more and more competitive as supply trails demand.

If you’re renting:

Just under half of Charlotte households rent, according to the U.S. Census. That means the dramatic rise in rents — 36 percent in the past five years — has had a big impact on the city. The average 2018 rent in the Charlotte market was $1,142, up $300 from 2013, according to locally based tracking service Real Data.

But that’s only part of the story: Single-family rental companies like Invitation Homes and Tricon American Homes have bought more than 10,000 houses in the Charlotte region since the Great Recession. These Wall Street-backed firms have turned those houses into permanent rentals, upending a segment of the housing market that used to be largely run by mom-and-pop, local firms. That means if you’re renting a house, you’re much more likely to be renting from Wall Street than you would have been just a few years ago.

The news isn’t all grim, however. With 13,000 new apartments planned in Charlotte over the next two years, some analysts are warning that rents might stop rising or even fall, as the supply of luxury units shoots ever higher. And many of the new apartment buildings in crowded markets like Uptown, South End and SouthPark are offering one or two months rent-free to lure new tenants, meaning you might be able to score a good deal.

If you’re buying:

Competitive, expensive, and not a lot of selection: The words you could use to describe Charlotte’s for-sale real estate market aren’t encouraging. Like many cities across the U.S., Charlotte is suffering from an acute shortage of houses for sale at the same time demand from prospective buyers is growing. Data compiled by the Carolina Multiple Listing Services show the average sales price in the Charlotte region jumped almost 6 percent in July 2018 compared to the previous year, to $302,177. Since 2012, the average home price in Charlotte has increased by about a third, from about $228,000.

At the same time, the number of houses for sale has plummeted. It’s a vicious cycle, as low inventory drives up prices further and makes potential sellers reluctant to put their property on the market, which pushes inventory even lower.

With about 9,500 houses on the market in June, Charlotte’s inventory of homes for sale is less than half of what it was in 2012. That means houses aren’t just more expensive and harder to find: They’re also selling much more quickly.

In June 2012, homes spent an average of 112 days on the market in Charlotte. In June 2018, however, they spent an average of just 36 days on the market, or less than a third as much time.