Home sales in Charlotte drop 31%

Sales of Charlotte-area homes continued a steep descent last month, but pricing declines eased.

The number of closings for houses, townhouses and condos fell almost 31 percent last month, compared with October 2007. That marks the 17th consecutive month of double-digit declines and the third time this year the sales decline was above 30 percent, based on figures released Tuesday for transactions through the Carolina Multiple Listing Services.

The average price of $216,777 was essentially flat with a year ago, registering a decline of less than 1 percent. In September prices had tumbled nearly 9 percent, the largest drop in nearly a year of declines.

Pending sales – people who have signed contracts but not closed – took their sharpest drop of this downturn in October. That 37 percent decline is a sign sales have weakened further as the region suffers from the spreading downturn that is afflicting the economy nationwide.

“With the severe financial crisis that has gripped our economy nationally and locally, along with decreased consumer confidence, we expect to see some sharp drops in closings and decreases in sales volumes, especially at the end of the year and probably over the next few months,” said Dot Munson, president of the Charlotte Regional Realtors Association, parent of the MLS.

The Charlotte market likely will be further wounded by Wachovia's impending sale to Wells Fargo. The San Francisco bank is expected to cut some of Wachovia's 20,000 jobs in the city.

Last month, 1,848 houses, townhouses and condos were sold through the MLS. The service accounts for nearly all existing home sales within a 50-mile radius and about a fourth of new home sales.