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Rising prices, fewer choices: Charlotte's real estate market looks grim for buyers

A home for sale along Hillside Avenue in Charlotte, where prices keep rising fast.
A home for sale along Hillside Avenue in Charlotte, where prices keep rising fast.

If you're buying a house in Charlotte, the market can be summed up in three words: "competitive," "expensive" and "scarce."

The latest sales numbers from the Carolina Multiple Listing Services show the average price of a house in the Charlotte region rose almost 11 percent in May compared with the same month a year ago, to $299,690. For a house in the city of Charlotte itself, the average price jumped almost 13 percent, to $332,700.

At the same time, the number of houses on the market was down 20 percent from May 2017. That means there's a sharply lower number of houses that potential buyers have to choose from: 9,106 listings, a drop of 2,275 from last year.

"Limited inventory continues to pressure prices and will be a challenge to buyers, who need to be prepared to act quickly and for multiple offer situations," Jason Gentry, president of the Charlotte Regional Realtor Association, said in a statement. "However, the current housing climate in Charlotte is not isolated, as other major markets in the state are also experiencing limited inventory and price increases that are impacting affordability. ”

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The limited inventory and rising cost to buy a house appear to be slowing down sales. The number of homes sold in May, during the busy spring buying season, dropped 4.2 percent from the prior year, while home sales year-to-date are down almost 1 percent.

“Though May sales are down year-over-year, we are pleased to see that sales activity for the first five months of the year is almost on par with year-to-date sales activity in 2017," Gentry said.

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Home prices are now rising much faster than they were a few years ago.

In May 2014, for example, home prices increased just 0.9 percent in a year, compared with more than 10 percent this year. Other indicators also point to how tight the Charlotte housing market has gotten. The average number of days it took houses from listing to closing fell to 87, down a full 10 days from last year. That indicates houses are selling much faster.

The inventory crunch is most severe at the lower end of the market, where starter homes are rising in price and being snapped up by investors. Gentry said multiple offers are most common in the below-$350,000 price range, where the number of houses has fallen as much as 50 percent in the lowest price tiers.

The median sales price, another measure that puts less emphasis on higher-priced properties, was up almost as much, jumping 9.5 percent to $223,750.

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