Maison Real Estate had its best year in company history last year with $188,420,494 in closed sales — and 2022 is already shaping up to be even better in spite of less houses coming on the Charleston County market.
The inventory for single-family detached homes in the area has decreased by 53.2% from 741 in February 2021 to 347 in 2022, the company said. Area 51, the area south of the Crosstown in downtown Charleston, is seeing a 76.6% decrease year-over-year.
But for Maison Real Estate’s three co-founders, what’s even more challenging is that homes are being snapped quicker than ever, with an average of 25 days on the market between January and mid-March. The time frame is half of the then-surprising 50-day average this time last year.
“We’re seeing more full-time buyers than ever coming to Charleston, full-time residents with children moving downtown,” said co-founder Mary Lou Wertz.
Families are mostly on the move from New England, Chicago and Ohio, as well as drive-to markets like Atlanta and Charlotte, co-founder Leslie Turner said. While vacation home purchases have leveled off, homes with outdoor living spaces and friendly work-from-home environments remain consistent priorities among all buyers.
“We didn’t really lock down that much during COVID and our schools remained open,” Turner said. “COVID’s permanently changed the way people work and want to live, so they’re choosing to live the Charleston lifestyle.”
Olga Page is working with one family co-founder so eager to move to Charleston from Massachusetts that the clients enrolled their four children in school first and searched for a home after.
Daniel Island and Sullivan’s Island are on fire with people seeking idyllic coastal homes, the founders said, but downtown Charleston and Mount Pleasant are also hotspots for clients.
Home buyers also are snatching up next-door properties to use as home offices, spare guest space or rental properties as the market continues to heat up.
The issue now seems to be more one of demand than an inventory problem, Turner said. While there are homes for sale, they go quickly as buyers continue to flood into the region each day.
When making an offer, Turner said cash is still king and selling homes fully furnished is a quick solution to enjoying a home sooner and avoiding today’s supply chain issues. The latter trend is especially rising in the luxury market, where furnishings have already been selected by interior designers and customized for size and scale of homes.
“I have a listing right now at 4 Battery Place that’s under contract and it’s being sold fully furnished, down to the pots and pans,” Turner said.
For rentals, it’s not uncommon for buyers to want to purchase a home fully furnished so they can start rental income right away, but purchasing fully furnished for a primary residence is newer to the pandemic.
“This is appealing to buyers due to current supply shortages and shipping delays, as it provides them with furniture right away if waiting on their long-term pieces, saves on moving costs, and is ideal for those purchasing a vacation home or investment property,” Turner said.
Buyers can then bring a suitcase and toothbrush and begin enjoying their new home right away.
For sellers, cash continues to win out as shoppers are still paying well above asking price to beat out the competition, Turner said. She’s currently working with a pair of first-time homebuyers with a healthy budget who can’t catch a break, even when they’ve taken all the right steps.
“We put an offer in on a house in West Ashley. It was listed at $550,000 and we went up $100,000 over and my clients lost it because they had a few offers over $700,000,” she said. “That’s a 30% over-the-list house bid.”
Another house on James Island garnered 24 offers in a day.
Page said part of the problem is that current homeowners aren’t interested in selling because they have nowhere to go. Any profits they realize on the sale of the property is lost or absorbed into a new purchase right now, with home sales up 28.4% compared to last year and a median price of $495,000, according to Redfin.
“Until we can absorb all of the buyers, the market’s not going to level off any time soon,” Turner said. “And it’s going to take a while to absorb all of these buyers.”