Home sales up in Richmond, Columbia counties this summer

Growth in area should spike sales more, realtors say



The summer housing market in metro Augusta was marked by rising home sales and dropping inventories, according to local real estate experts.

“We saw lots of houses were selling at full price of above, often receiving multiple offers,” said Michelle McKenzie, an associate broker at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Executive Partners. “We saw homes that had to be rented in the past, but they were able to go on the market and be sold.”

McKenzie said home inventory stayed tight especially in the $200,000 to $225,000 range, and that homes listed at that price point generally took just a couple of days or weeks to sell.

She considered this summer the best she has seen since before the recession.

“The last couple of summers it’s been increasing little by little, but this summer we had just phenomenal activity.”

From June through August, 2,084 homes sold in metro Augusta at a median price of $160,000, according to statistics provided by the Greater Augusta Association of Realtors.

Home sales are 14.3 percent higher from the same three-month period last year, and up 24.3 percent from 2013. Median sale prices also increased from $158,000 in 2014 and $147,000 in 2013, according to the housing data.

“The numbers indicate that housing in our marketplace is the best it’s been in 10 years,” said Doug Reese, who manages the Blanchard and Calhoun Real Estate Co. office in Evans.

Existing home sales in both Richmond and Columbia counties are the highest they have been in years, said Reese, who expects new home construction sales in Columbia County to reach an all-time high by the end of the year. Demand for new residential construction is also evident in Richmond County, he said.

“We’re in a very vibrant, healthy real estate market,” Reese said. “That’s not necessarily true all throughout the United States.”

Reese and others in the local real estate industry continue to point to the area’s employment base for the booming housing figures. Expansion related to the U.S. Army’s Cyber Command Headquarters, ongoing work at Plant Vogtle and the robust medical community, they said, are major driving forces in the market.

Larry Miller, however, sees another encouraging sign.

“We’re seeing more local moves,” said Miller, who owns Century 21 Larry Miller Realty. “We’re still getting a lot of Fort Gordon moves. We’re still getting a lot of industry moves, but I think as far as our increase in numbers, it has to do with the folks that have been waiting to move for several years and they’re now making that move.”

Miller said he has added seven full-time agents this year and plans to hire another 10 in coming months.

At his firm, Miller sees the most demand and lowest inventory for homes priced between $175,000 to $250,000. He also noted that credit requirements for solid home buyers are beginning to ease.

Meybohm realtor Ann Marie McManus said that while Augusta has a historically conservative housing market, this summer was one of the two hottest real estate markets she has seen locally in 30 years.

“This summer I had several times where we had multiple offers on properties,” she said. “These weren’t under the market price. They were priced at the market. It generated multiple offers, which is a function of the (low) inventory.”

Homes are now selling at nearly 95 percent of the asking price, which is a strong indicator of a housing market’s health, McManus said. However, she was quick to note the importance of not overpricing a property.

“Augusta is a very gentlemanly market,” she said. “You can be only slightly over the market and buyers will feel that they’re not willing to make an offer.”

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Home sales during the peak of real estate season (from the May through August) was 12 percent higher than last year. Here is a look at the number of homes sold in past years:

2013: 2,193

2014: 2,360

2015: 2,692


Source: Greater Augusta Associated of Realtors