Raleigh and Charlotte, N.C. Housing Markets Finish 2012 on a High Note

Summary: North Carolina home sales rose sharply in 2012. In fact, Raleigh and Charlotte were near the top of the list in sales volume, compared to more than 50 U.S. metro areas.

Charlotte, NC aerial photo
Aerial shot of downtown Raleigh, N.C. Public domain image.

RE/MAX recently published their National Housing Report, a monthly review of housing conditions in more than 50 metro areas. The latest report included data through the end of 2012.

According to the RE/MAX report, the U.S. housing market pulled in some positive numbers last year. Nationally, the median sales price rose 7.6% between December 2011 and December 2012. The number of homes sold rose 3.8% during the same period.

When you drill down to the city and metro level, the numbers are widely varied. For instance, some western cities like Phoenix, Las Vegas and San Francisco saw their median sales prices climb by more than 25%. Other cities experienced only modest gains in 2012, or none at all.

On the sales volume side of things, two North Carolina cities topped the list. According to RE/MAX, the Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte metro areas had two of the largest gains in home sales last year. Prices seem to be rising in both of these real estate markets as well.

Raleigh-Durham Experiences Largest Jump in Home Sales

In the Raleigh metro-area housing market, home sales rose by 31.3% in 2012. That was the largest gain reported by RE/MAX, in a report that covers approximately 53 metro areas.

According to Zillow, the median sales price in the Raleigh area rose by 1.5% over the last year or so.

Ray Larcher, President of Triangle Multiple Listing Service (which serves Raleigh and Durham), expects the positive trends to continue into 2013: “The Triangle Region’s real estate market maintained strong growth through the end of 2012,” he said, “and we expect this trend to continue through into 2013.”

According to Trulia, one of the country’s largest real estate data websites, Raleigh has one of the healthiest housing markets in the country right now. This statement comes from the latest update of their “Housing Barometer,” which measures the ongoing housing recovery at both the national and metro levels. According to Jed Kolko, Trulia’s chief economist, “Raleigh, Austin, and Houston led the U.S. in construction activity.” These are markets where construction is strong, demand is growing, and foreclosure rates are dropping.

The Raleigh-Durham metro real estate market has several things going for it, but jobs are at the top the list. The unemployment rate is hovering around 7% at the moment, down from a high of 9.7% in early 2010 and well below the national average. This region typically fares well in the jobs department, largely the result of the Triangle companies and the various colleges and universities in the area. Granted, there’s still room for improvement. But conditions have improved significantly over the last two years.

Strong job markets drive population growth, and that’s what we are seeing in the Raleigh area right now. Forbes magazine recently ranked the fastest-growing cities in America. The rankings were based on population growth for 2012 and 2013 (projected), as well as various economic indicators. Raleigh appeared at #4 on their list. According to the editors, “The [city’s] population is currently expanding at a rate of more than 3 percent annually, and job growth was 2.3 percent in 2012.” This, in turn, could increase demand for housing and boost home prices in Raleigh.

Charlotte Housing Market Also Sporting Strong Numbers

Travel 170 miles southwest of Raleigh, and you’ll find another one of the strongest housing markets on the East Coast — Charlotte, N.C. According to the RE/MAX report, home sales in this city rose 16.7% over the last year or so.

Last month’s release of the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index revealed a 4.1% gain in Charlotte home prices, year over year. Dating back to 2002, the Case-Shiller index is one of the most trusted and widely cited indices of its kind. It tracks house prices in 20 of the largest U.S. metro areas, as well as offering a national composite of prices. The index is published monthly with a two-month lag.

According to the Charlotte Regional Realtors Association (CRRA), the number of real estate closings rose 23.4% in December 2012, over the same time last year. They also reported a 2.5% increase in the median sales price in December, and a 7.9% increase in the average sales price. However you slice it, the Charlotte housing market appears to be on solid footing as we move into 2013.

One downside is the number of days it takes to sell a home. That number is still above average. According to Anika Kahn, a senior economist for Wells Fargo: “For Charlotte, it’s somewhere between 115, 120; but on a national basis, we’re looking at somewhere around 70, 73 days on the market.”

But that doesn’t mean home buyers can have their way. Local real estate agents have reported a significant decline in inventory across the Charlotte area. Realtor.com shows a -12.26% change in the number of listings for this metro area. Inventory is tight and growing tighter, so home buyers should be prepared to make a same-day offer when they find a house they like. It will probably go fast.