The metro Augusta housing market saw a surge this summer as home sales rose to their highest level since 2007, before the housing bubble burst.
Local agents sold 2,596 houses between May and September, according to data from the Greater Augusta Association of Realtors.
The results are 7 percent higher than 2012 and a marked improvement over the 2,279 homes sold in those months in 2011. The summer months historically represent the highest sales activity of the year.
The last time the sales in the market were this high was in 2007, when agents sold 2,687 houses in the four-month period.
“I thought there was a lot of optimism in the market in the summer,” said Edwin Douglass, a vice president at Blanchard and Calhoun Real Estate Co. “I think the slight rise in interest rates motivated some buyers. I feel like people were beginning to tire of waiting to do what they want with their lives as far as their real estate purchases go.”
Recent homebuyers Joseph and Candyce Curran said rising interest rates factored into their decision. The couple bought their $165,000 home in Grovetown’s Ivy Falls at the end of August when a 30-year fixed rate mortgage hovered around 4.6 percent.
“I’ve really been watching the market and watching the interest rates,” Candyce Curran said.
“I knew that the interest rates were not going to stay very low for much longer so I was trying to get in there before the interest rates and the homes prices started going up.”
The Currans moved with their two cats into the 2,100-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom home less than a month ago.
The pair had previously lived for three years in a townhome they owned off West Wheeler Parkway near Doctors Hospital. Unable to find a buyer for the unit, they are renting it out.
Real estate agents say, however, that they are starting to see a change in their rental versus sales inventories.
“Over the past six years, I had accumulated a bunch of rental homes for other people who did not want to sell ... because their home wasn’t worth what it used to be,” said Kim Courson, an associate broker with Courson Realty.
“Then the summer of this year, a bunch of those started selling. I definitely saw a shift where I was able to sell peoples’ homes and get them what they owed on the home. That was the first time I had honestly seen that in the past five years.”
Another encouraging sign for Courson was that sellers garnered much closer to their asking prices than in previous years and about broke even on their investments. The breakdown between new-home and resale activity was balanced, she added.
On average, homes stayed on the market between four to five months versus six to nine months last summer, Courson said.
“It did get to where you could kind of give people more of a realistic time frame,” she said.
Douglass said he felt this summer’s real estate market was “exponentially better” and expressed surprise that home sales were only 7 percent higher above the same time period last year. Douglass, who has a strong concentration of listings in Summerville and west Augusta, also has properties throughout Richmond and Columbia counties as well as into South Carolina.
“I’m very encouraged,” he said. “I’m seeing prices per square foot increase. I’m seeing sales closer to asking prices than they were.”
Courson said she’s seen confidence pick up among both sellers and buyers, and expects the auspicious housing outlook to continue into the new year.
“I’m still listing,” she said. “Houses are getting shown a lot more than they were this time last year. It used to be a real panic feeling when you talked to people on both ends. Everyone’s now feeling pretty secure.”
Business Editor Tim Rausch contributed to this article.