By EMILY SPARACINO
The condition of the real estate market in Shelby County is different than it was nearly eight years ago, when the economy dipped and took housing markets nationwide with it.
Local real estate agents are starting to see a comeback in sales, construction and a healthy market for both buyers and sellers in Shelby County.
“I think 2015 started out with an unexpected bang,” RealtySouth qualifying broker Kent Brenner said. “I think we’re trending extremely rapidly and higher than last year’s expectations. Home sales are definitely up.”
Brenner said resale homes and new construction – particularly of homes more than $200,000 – are trending.
“Shelby County is still the fastest-growing county as far as real estate is concerned,” Brenner said. “We still have a great amount of first-time homebuyers coming to Shelby County to find a first home.”
Mechelle Wilder, partner and associate broker at Arc Realty, sells homes along the U.S. 280 corridor and said the market has increased in activity the past three months.
“Prices are beginning to increase somewhat,” Wilder said. “Medium-priced homes are selling quicker. Higher-end homes are selling at a slower pace. I tell everyone to have their home priced right and move-in ready; that’s what buyers are looking for.”
Wilder said the housing market in the 280 area “has started to be as active as it was in 2005 and 2006, before the market dipped.”
“More houses are selling,” Wilder said. “There are fewer homes on the market than there were this time last year, but the homes have increased in value.”
Wilder described the current market as a more balanced market, with parts of the 280 corridor transitioning to a seller’s market.
“Sellers are really getting top dollar,” Wilder said. “Sellers are getting close to what they’re asking for if their home is priced at fair market value.”
Wilder said popular features many buyers are looking for in homes include a master bedroom on the main level, a garage on the main level, a fully finished basement, sidewalks and family environments.
Spacious sidewalks and a family atmosphere are also major selling points of Mt Laurel.
A growing community off 280, Mt Laurel is marketed as having “a relaxed pace, inspired by another era when neighbors knew neighbors, and going to school, the market, or even doctor was as simple as a walk,” the town’s website reads.
“We are seeing a pickup of interest in Mt Laurel,” EBSCO Development Company Marketing and Community Relations Manager Julianna Vance said. “The spring season is a huge buying and selling season. We’re seeing a lot of traffic and a lot of people wanting to move.”
Vance said buyers have expressed much interest in the town’s home floor plans, which include the new Cherry Laurel plan.
“We’re excited about our offering of 15 floor plans,” Vance said. “For the first time in several years, we’re going to build move-in ready homes. Inventory is picking up.”
Vance said the current market is a good sign for the economy and for buyers, builders and sellers in Shelby County.
“It’s still a wonderful time to buy with the interest rates low,” Vance said. “The market is more balanced. It’s very encouraging.”
Brenner said buyers have more choices as to the style of homes they purchase because of the number of homes on the market.
According to a 2013-2014 statistical home sale comparisons report for Shelby County, 579 new construction homes and 2,830 existing homes were sold in 2013, bringing the total of houses sold in the county to 3,410.
The new construction homes were sold at an average price of $256,669 and stayed on the market for an average of 42 days; meanwhile, the existing homes were sold for an average price of $218,451 and stayed on the market for 85 days on average.
In 2014, 3,552 houses were sold in the county, including 626 new construction homes with an average price of $279,108, and 2,926 existing homes sold at an average of $215,694 each.
“I know Pelham and Calera are on the upswing,” Brenner said. “I think what it boils down to is buyers have a bottom line, and sellers have their top line. It bowls down to how much one can spend and how much one can sell their house for.”
Wilder said she has seen a lot of people move to the 280 area from out-of-town because of amenities such as quality schools, shopping and restaurant options.
Data shows for the first quarter of 2014, 228 homes sold in the 280 market with an average sales price of $302,000 and average time on the market of 88 days, Wilder said.
Then in 2015, 252 homes sold with an increased average sales price of $317,000 and average time on the market of 69 days.
“That’s telling you we are seeing an increase in the activity and sales price in homes on the 280 corridor,” Wilder said. “As long as interest rates remain at historical lows, I think we will continue to see the housing market to increase.
“It’s a market for people wanting to buy and sell. It’s a good time to buy. We don’t know if we’ll ever see rates this low again. Now is the time to buy before rates increase. Call your realtor to help you get the best price for your home.”