Charlotte housing scene confronts stark trends. What that means for buyers and sellers

Zillow is bringing its homebuying startup to the Triangle.
Zillow is bringing its homebuying startup to the Triangle.

Home sales in the Charlotte metro region continued to decline in August, a sign that more buyers are having trouble finding houses in a tight market.

August sales decreased 6 percent compared to the same month last year, according to data from Carolina Multiple Listing Services.

In part, sales are down because inventory is low — meaning many buyers can’t find the house they want, at the price they want.

The number of homes for sale in August was down to 10,052 properties, or 14.3 percent fewer than a year earlier. Inventory has been plunging for months as potential sellers are reluctant to list their homes for fear they can’t find a comparable home to move to. There were 11,736 properties for sale in August 2017.

“There’s still very strong buyer demand in the market place,” said Jason Gentry, president of the Charlotte Regional Realtor Association. That combination — low supply and high demand — means prices continue to rise.

Last month, homes sold on average for $294,107, up 8.8 percent from a year earlier.

The Charlotte metro median home sales price rose to $243,500 in August 2018, up 8 percent compared to a year earlier. The median price was up 1.5 percent from July. The median price gives less weight to the cheapest and most expensive homes.

Buyers are compensating in many cases, he said. “(They) still want all the things that they see on HGTV, but they can start to afford less” Gentry said. Or buyers must move farther outside of the area they would ideally like to live in to get what they want, he said.

One group that’s particularly hard-pressed: First-time homebuyers, who tend to purchase lower-priced houses. In Charlotte, it’s difficult to buy houses for less than $350,000, Gentry said. And those homes attract multiple offers. “That market is still extremely tight.”

Typically, August is a bad month for home sales because “a lot of our market is driven by the school season,” Gentry said. But the plunge in sales from last year, not just last month, indicates the decline goes beyond normal seasonal fluctuation.

Nationally, home sales decreased by 1.5 percent for July, compared to a year earlier, according to the latest available data from the National Realtor Association.

Cassie Cope: 704-358-5926, @cassielcope.