There’s a bit of good news for the area real estate market heading into the New Year.
In the Eastern North Carolina Home Sales Index released in December, pending home sales had increased 2.7 percent as 2011 came to a close, with the number of pending sales reaching 1,283 at the beginning of December compared to 1,249 in November.
It was the first increase for the 15-county region after months of decreases.
Onslow and Carteret counties, which are among the 15 counties in the index, each saw increases, with Onslow seeing pending sales jump 2.8 percent over the previous month and Carteret making a 0.9-percent jump.
Pending home sales in Onslow and Carteret have remained relatively steady in recent months. Onslow pending sales have ranged from 284 to 320 over the past three months and Carteret’s numbers have stayed around 105 to 155.
While the numbers fluctuate by month and by county, pending sales are an indication that buyers are signing contracts.
Jay Shackelford, a certified general real estate appraiser who puts together market data reports for Rasberry Shackelford & Associates, said the pending sales are a key indicator of sales that will take place over the next 30 to 45 days.
“They are homes under contract. An offer has been accepted but it is not yet sold,” he explained.
As pending sales turn to final sales, area real estate agents are keeping a positive outlook for 2012.
“Homes will continue to sell, and the overall outlook is optimistic,” said Jenna Morton, president of the Jacksonville Board of Realtors.
Morton said the area continues to see an increase in new construction sales.
Over the past three years, new construction sales have increased from 1,206 in 2009 to 1,497 in 2010 and 1,585 in 2011.
Morton said there are currently about 2,400 homes for sale in the Jacksonville area with the average days on the market of active inventory being 161 days. The average days on the market for homes in 2011 was 120 days.
The average price for homes sold in 2011 was $174,678.
Onslow County’s market has fared better than others in the region, but it has still felt the impacts from the economic downturn.
“Home prices have fallen; however, our market has not seen the huge loss in values that other markets have faced. We are down about 5 to 10 percent,” she said.
Shackelford said Onslow County has been insulated to some degree from the economy because of its military presence, and while there was somewhat of a dip in sales volume over the past year, he said sales in the market have remained steady.
“Jacksonville’s market is so different from the rest of Eastern North Carolina because it is so driven by the military,” he said.
There were 2,895 single-family sales from December 2010 to November 2011, down from 3,361 the previous year; but the numbers have stayed above 3,000 since the economy has soured and traditionally peaks during the second quarter of the year.
By comparison, home sales in the Carteret County market dropped significantly several years ago and are now beginning to see a turn around.
“Carteret County is more of a tourism and second-home market,” he said.
Mark Mansfield, president of the Carteret County Association of Realtors, said they are starting to see sales numbers move up, a positive sign going into 2012.
“For four or five years we were experiencing a downward trend, and 2009-2010 was probably the bottom for us. The later part of 2010 and in 2011 we started seeing an upward trend in the numbers,” he said.
There were 903 home sales in the Carteret County market from December 2010 to November 2011, up from 834 the previous year and the highest number since December 2006 to November 2007, when 1,088 single family homes were sold.
While there are signs of improvement, Shackelford said the biggest boost to the area’s real estate market will come as the job market improves and people gain more confidence in the economy.
“When people ask me when the real estate market is going to get better, my answer is that it’s going to improve once the unemployment numbers improve and consumer confidence follows and people feel better about their jobs and the economy in general.”