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Price points impact number of homes sold

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By Everett Ballenger

The overall improvement in real estate sales continued through the third quarter of 2016. All five areas we normally cover other than Mossy Oaks saw some improvement in sales volume. Actual unit sales were more of a mixed bag.

The city of Beaufort had an outstanding third quarter compared to the same period in 2015. Sales were up substantially, both in volume and units. Very notable was the increase in average and median prices.

Across-the-board average and median sales prices saw an upward trend, apart from one or two segments.

As we have mentioned in the past, inventory has been declining and sales have been very steady for the last two to three years, so it could only be a matter of time before the pressure on prices finally started to show up.


Mossy Oaks saw a slow-ish quarter, and although there were some negative numbers, there was nothing to get depressed about.

Port Royal was down in actual unit sales, but with increases in selling values, the town had quite a positive quarter. I am not sure how much new construction there is a Port Royal at the moment, as compared to the past when that had pushed the area to the forefront of single-family housing.

Almost the same could be said for Burton as for Port Royal. Their real estate makeup is very similar. They have well-established areas, in conjunction with new construction from national builders.

Lady’s Island had a very strong third quarter, with a substantial increase in unit sales – 122 compared to 93 in 2015. This in turn pushed up their sales volume to an impressive $35.3 million.

It is worthy to note that prices were pretty neutral compared to other areas. This could be a reflection on new home building by national companies keeping a lid on price increases by increasing the available inventory.

Total Northern Beaufort County was up across the board. The county saw significant increases in all segments.

Lastly, a couple of interesting observations: September 2016 was down in unit sales compared to September 2015. This is the first time that has happened since October 2015. So having said that, the third quarter of 2016 could have been even better with a stronger September.

The other observation: I am writing this after Hurricane Matthew has blown through, and sometimes when a major event like this happens it can negatively affect our area for a year or two. People thinking of moving to the coast have second thoughts, or put their relocation plans on hold.

On the other hand, the storm covered such a wide area and caused havoc and destruction over so many miles inland that hopefully folks will understand that these types of events are not limited to the coast. Only time will tell.

Everett Ballenger is the owner of B.I.C Ballenger Realty and is the former president of the Beaufort County Association of Realtors.

Price points impact number of homes sold

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By Everett Ballenger

Last month we looked at the various price brackets in which homes were selling (or not in some cases) in the five areas (Beaufort, Port Royal, Moss Oaks, Lady’s Island and Burton) which we monitor.

It was interesting but not surprising to see the difference in sales numbers the further up the price scale. This month I thought it might be of interest to look, by price bracket, at the number of homes sold in the last 12 months in the same five areas and using a single date in September, compare the inventory on that date and a similar date the previous year.

As to the question of inventory, based on the data in the chart, the number of houses available in the areas we monitor is decreasing between 10 percent and 13 percent every 12 months.


This decrease is primarily occurring in homes priced under $500,000. The number of homes in the over $500,000 price range is actually showing a slight increase. The number of overall sales occurring in the same area over the last 12 months has increased by almost 8 percent.

Readers of the LIBPA newsletter each month, and those who follow real estate in general, will know that sales have increased over the last two to three years. They are also familiar with the fact that following the real estate and financial collapse starting in 2006, homebuilders drastically reduced the number of new homes under construction.

So the increasing decline in the number of available homes for sale should not be a surprise.

There is a stark difference when comparing the time to sell a home in the $100,000 to $199,000 range (1.86 months) to homes over $1 million (58.53 months).

One would except property under $100,000 would sell the fastest, but that range took 1.96 months on average to sell. This slight increase may be due to the lack of inventory in the “up to $99,000.”

At 3.3 months, the $200,000 to $299,000 range is also a very short time frame.

The “normal” national inventory is around five months’ worth of homes for sale. Step up to the next price range of $300,000-$399,999 and we see a huge difference in monthly inventory (eight months’ worth). This increases the further up the price range we go, to the ($1 million and up) with 58.5 months of inventory available on Sept. 16.

This difference in monthly inventories should not be that surprising, as there are a lot less buyers the further up the scale we go.


Finally, the question of where is the sweet spot in today’s local real estate market is best answered by the fact that 82 percent of all of the homes sold in the last 12 months in the five areas we monitor were in the $400,000 and under range.

When considering selling your home, please work with a Realtor to determine the best and most realistic price. Having the correct price can make all of the difference in the time the house will remain on the market.

Everett Ballenger is the owner of B.I.C Ballenger Realty and former president of Beaufort County Association of Realtors.

Demand high throughout Beaufort County

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By Janet Gresham

As anticipated at the outset of the year, demand has remained high through the first three quarters of 2016 in Beaufort County, propping up sales and prices despite heavy reductions in inventory and months of supply across the country.

With rental prices and employment opportunities in a consistent climb, year-over-year increases in home buying are probable for the rest of the year but not guaranteed.

New Listings were down 8.8 percent to 207. Pending Sales decreased 0.6 percent to 155. Inventory shrank 4.3 percent to 1,057 units.

Prices moved higher as Median Sales Price was up 18.8 percent to $200,127. Days on Market decreased 10.9 percent to 82 days. Months Supply of Inventory was down 12.3 percent to 5.7 months, indicating that demand increased relative to supply.

In general, today’s demand is driven by three factors: Millennials are reaching prime home-buying age, growing families are looking for larger homes and empty nesters are downsizing. However, intriguingly low interest rates often prompt refinancing instead of listing, contributing to lower inventory. Recent studies have also shown that short-term rentals are keeping a collection of homes off the market.

Janet Gresham is the CEO of the Beaufort County Association of REALTORS and the Beaufort Multiple Listing Service, Inc.

Weichert helps military personnel with buying/selling

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Weichert Realtors-Coastal Properties is offering help to veterans looking to buy or sell a home.

Through participation the Military on the Move program, Weichert provides active duty, retired military and wounded warriors with special benefits on real estate services, including a  rebate at closing in states where allowed by law.

“Relocating for military families is a fact of life,” said Pam O’Connor, LeadingRE president/CEO. “I love our Military on the Move program, and the chance it gives us to connect with those whom I know are a very special breed of clientele.

“We created U.S. Military on the Move to make it easy for those who serve our country to connect with these market-leading real estate professionals committed to delivering premier service to military personnel, while also allowing these service men and women to benefit financially from special rebates and pricing on other value-added services.

“Not only is this program truly beneficial to these families, but it has been incredibly rewarding to those of us who are able to deliver significant value to the men and women who sacrifice so much for this wonderful country of ours.”

For more information, call 843-379-3010.

North county real estate market mixed bag

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By Everett Ballenger

The first half of 2016 seemed busier than the numbers would indicate. It certainly was a mixed bag.

The market has been somewhat down on the face of it, but there were some bright spots. I know the numbers do not show it yet, but the latter part of the first half of 2016 we did see some encouraging traffic, and June’s closings were outstanding.

There were some bright spots though, and we will look at each area individually, but Lady’s Island had an excellent first half.

August 2016 (1)

I suspect the availability of “affordable” housing offered by the national builders is enticing first-time buyers to take the plunge and purchase their first home. This is especially true as rental housing is getting harder to find, and rents are rising faster than mortgages. Here’s a look by community:

Beaufort: The importance of the overall effect of first-time buyers cannot be overstated. One reason we had the start of the real estate collapse back around 2006 was that property got too expensive, and first-time buyers stopped buying, thus the knock-on effect throughout the industry.

I wonder what effect the lack of “new” affordable housing in the city of Beaufort has or will have on any potential population growth. I could get into the demographics of boomers and millennials, but space would not allow it. The city of Beaufort was pretty flat with the exception of the median price drop.

Mossy Oaks was down across the board, with a significant drop in actual sales. Inventory was up 18.5 percent.

Port Royal is a surprise. The area is usually up among the better performing districts. Unit sales were down -26 percent, but there were nice price increases for the “Average” and “Median.” Inventory was down a high 63 percent.

Burton was a little surprising, as there are some national builders active in that area. Sales down some 14 percent were noteworthy. Prices up strongly at +23 percent average and + 15.6 percent median.

Lady’s Island had an excellent first half of 2016. Sales volume were up +30 percent and unit sales up +43 percent. The only negative was the average sales price was -8.5 percent. For years Lady’s Island was the real estate hotspot of Northern Beaufort County. But like everywhere else it was hit hard by the real estate downturn.

Over the last year or two, the island has reasserted itself as the leader in single-family home sales. With national builders moving ahead at a pace with new reasonably affordable new construction, I see no reason the island’s strong showing should not continue into the foreseeable future.

Everett Ballenger is the owner of B.I.C. Ballenger Realty and former president of the Beaufort County Associations of Realtors.

Real estate numbers bode well for 2016

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By Everett Ballenger

This month we will take a snapshot of the May 2016 real estate market. We would not normally just look at one month for a year-on-year review, but May is normally a good indicator of how the market will perform   through the busy spring selling season.

One should take into account that for homes to close in May, the contracts were very likely written in March and April. So again decent real estate sales in May really indicates how the first 40 percent of the year has performed.

Over the last two years the housing market has been up on the year before (other than October 2015), which was down a little on 2014. Here we are only looking at the five areas we normally cover, Beaufort, Mossy Oaks, Port Royal, Burton and Lady’s Island.

Three Year Review of the Month of May
Three Year Review of the Month of May

Certainly May 2016 showed some healthy gains across the board. Actual units’ sales were up close to an impressive 14 percent.

Prices did show some increase over 2015. This is encouraging to see. Some “hot” metropolitan areas have seen some significant rises in home values, and Northern Beaufort has lagged behind this appreciation trend.

Land values are still down, especially in some gated communities, but if the single-family home market remains strong, it can only be a matter of time before buildable lots start to attract attention once more.

As of May 15, there were 397 active single-family homes for sale in our five main areas, and 192 pending sales with a listing volume of $51,087,473.

One would have to say that May 2016 was a pretty good month overall, and bodes well that the real estate market remain strong throughout the rest of the year.

Everett Ballenger is the owner of B.I.C. Ballenger Realty and former president of the Beaufort County Associations of Realtors.

Beaufort strives to save live oak near Boundary Street construction project

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The recently-pruned live oak stands tall after surrounding scrub trees were removed to improve the oak’s health.
The recently-pruned live oak stands tall after surrounding scrub trees were removed to improve the oak’s health.

As construction crews begin clearing the way for a realigned intersection of Boundary Street and Robert Smalls Parkway/SC 170, Beaufort city leaders are working to save a century-old live oak located at what will be an improved First Street. The tree is a 51-inch diameter live oak and is likely between 100 and 150 years old, arborist Michael Murphy said.

“Live oaks are an important part of Lowcountry culture as well as Southern culture,” Murphy said. “These iconic trees have come to identify the South. Every historical Southern event seems to have happened under or near the canopy of a live oak. This tree’s location, in a prominent site on a future bend in a new road which would place it in the view of all who would be using the new road, is reason enough to preserve and maintain it.”

“We recognize that we can’t save all the trees affected by this project, but when we have a chance to save a live oak, we are certainly going to try,” said David Coleman, senior project manager for the City of Beaufort. “When this part of the road is completed, this big tree will help anchor the end of the road as it starts to bend at the river,” he said.

RESPA change effective date extended to October 3rd

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Beaufort County Association of REALTORS® (BCAR) is alerting its members and the public of the alternate effective date for implementation of the changes to the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) and Truth in Lending Act (TILA) or TRID (TILA/RESPA Integrated Disclosure). Originally, the changes were slated for August 1, 2015. However, as of late last week the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a proposed amendment which would move the rule’s effective date to October 3, 2015.

“We certainly welcome the extension, but we continue to urge all REALTORS® to be aware of the changes coming in October so that there are no delays at the closing table,” said BCAR CEO Janet Gresham.

Highlights of the new rule include:

• A new loan estimate document which replaces the Good Faith Estimate and the initial Truth in Lending disclosure.

• A new closing disclosure document which replaces and combines the HUD-1 and final Truth in Lending disclosures.

• Loan Estimates must now be given to consumers within 3 business days of applying for the loan.

• Types of loans covered include most closed-end consumer mortgage loans. The rule does not apply to Home equity lines of credit, reverse mortgages, mortgages secured by mobile homes or by dwellings not attached to the property and creditors who make five or fewer mortgage loans in one year.

The South Carolina Association of REALTORS® will be offering members a training webinar on July 23rd to address the RESPA changes. REALTORS® are encouraged to visit to register.

Beware the real estate scammer

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By Will McCullough

While the modern real estate industry uses a wide range of “checks and balances” to protect individuals from fraud, the common utilization of digital marketing in today’s world has opened the door to creative scammers, con-men and all around scumbags. While I personally have seen only a few blatant attempts at real estate related “scams” over the years locally, those few could have been utterly catastrophic to the unsuspecting potential victims. I was motivated to choose this topic for today’s column because my most recent related experience took place just last week and, as this specific scumbag initiated a scam I’d never seen or heard of before, I felt it important to share.  But, before I share the details, please allow me to reintroduce you to a few catchy sayings you may have heard before:

1. Believe but verify.

2. There’s a sucker born every minute.

3. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

4. Don’t take any wooden nickels.

5. Ask no questions, hear no lies.

All that being said, here’s what happened: I had a client who was looking for a rental property to reside in on Lady’s Island.  Deena and I normally don’t handle rentals but wanted to help this person.  Anyways, we were contacted by the client last week and they, apparently, had found the “perfect rental” on Lady’s Island via and asked if we could investigate it for them before they sent the owner their deposit.  Upon a little standard research, we found the home offered for sale in our MLS by a reputable local agent but not offered for rent. We thought that was odd so we then located the rental listing our client had found posted on The contact number for the rental listing was a Chicago area code.  This sent up a “red flag”, I know the listing agent personally and he’s not from Chicago. We then tried to contact the listing agent but were unable to reach him. As it’s not totally unheard of for a person to attempt to rent a property themselves while simultaneously listing it for sale via an agent, we went ahead and called the number on Trulia.  I mean, come on, it’s Trulia right?

And then it got weird …

When we called the number, an individual answered who allegedly spoke little English. They also had a really bad phone connection. There was enough clarity to eventually exchange email addresses and cell phone numbers for texting. I realized later that, despite my best efforts, he apparently thought I was a potential renter and not an agent.  Or he didn’t care. In hindsight, who knows? In any event, below please find an extremely condensed version of our two days of text/email conversations:

Me: I have a client interest in renting your home. I will contact your agent directly.

Scumbag: I am renting myself due to bad experience with Realtor and tenant.

Scumbag: Renting myself. You don’t have to contact agent anymore.

Me: How can we gain access to view the home?

Scumbag: Drive by tonight and look through windows.

Me: How do we get the key to see inside?

Scumbag: OK, sounds good. Send the $1000 deposit and I will send you keys.

Me: My clients will not send a deposit until they have seen inside and have an executed lease.

Scumbag: OK, understand we need to trust but other people want my house too.

Scumbag: OK, my wife says we will take half deposit then send keys.

Me: No, we will not send funds until we have viewed inside and verified ownership, etc.

Scumbag: We are a God fearing family and treat others this way. Send half deposit and we send keys.

The above communication examples continued to repeat, varied slightly, in a frustrating circle, via email, text and garbled phone calls, for some time. I then finally received a response from the listing agent whom I’d contacted earlier. As it turned out, the property was not being offered for rent, only for sale. As a matter of fact, the owner had yet to even move out and was still living in the home.

Here’s what happened in a nutshell. This individual found the legitimate “for sale” listing of the property in question online.  He then created a bogus (and tantalizingly below market) “for rent” listing for the same property on utilizing the real “for sale” listing’s online pictures and details and was attempting to convince potential local renters to send a deposit to his Chicago mailing address after instructing them to simply drive by and “look through the windows”. He made this seem plausible and realistic by expressing his love of “Christian values” while simultaneously feigning a lack of mastery for the English language.

It’s OK though. All was reported to the appropriate folks. What’s the moral of the story?  Always remember to apply the appropriate “protect your fiscal backside” saying of your choice listed earlier before sending anyone money for any reason.  As a bonus, we may have at least helped initiate a catchy new saying: Think twice before you post your home mailing address to someone you are trying to scam.

Attorneys, lenders and cool shades

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By Will McCullough
I only buy cheap sunglasses. I mean really cheap. We’re talking single digits. The reason I only purchase the most inexpensive shades possible is because I have a track record, which spans decades, of quickly breaking them. As a matter of fact, when I broke my last pair a few months ago, I swore I wouldn’t buy any more unless I could find a seemingly unbreakable pair for under $20.
The reason I share the above information with you is because, about three weeks ago, Deena and I were walking along the shores of the Beaufort sandbar together, and she found a pair of beat up old sunglasses buried in the surf. Broken and covered in scratches, they looked like they’d been bouncing along the bottom of the river for months. With the exception of our boat, the sandbar was completely empty and, had it not been for the friends we had with us, the sunglasses in question would have quickly found their way into our trash.
“Those are Costa Del Mar sunglasses!” our friend exclaimed. For the record, this meant nothing to me. The only time I honestly get excited about fashion is when Marvel Comics releases a new superhero T-shirt. However, the catch here was that, while I’d personally never heard of “Costa Del Whatever,” my friend had. And, not only had he heard of these fancy high dollar shades, he knew that they came with a lifetime warranty for replacement against breakage. In a nutshell, he had detailed knowledge, based on personal interest and experience, about a topic that just might prove valuable to me.
In the world of real estate, we agents often find ourselves in a comparable situation. We’ll work with a buyer who has finally found the property of their dreams, made an offer, received a contract and then asked us the inevitable questions. What closing attorney should I use? What lender should I use?  What inspectors should I use?
Unfortunately, despite the fact that we local agents work with a wide range of supporting entities and definitely have personal opinions on who is best equipped to help you, the truth of the matter is that recommending a specific lender, attorney or inspector would be a violation of our ethics standards. We simply are not permitted to recommend, or attempt to sway you, in the direction of any secondary provider of real estate related services. In short, even though I know for a fact that the real estate lender, attorney or inspector equivalent of “Costa Del Mar” rocks, I can’t recommend them to you above the real estate equivalent of “Sunglasses-R-Us.”
What I can do, however, is give you a list of the general criteria I find important in selecting supporting entities for my own personal real estate transactions.
Within arms reach: For my personal transactions, I prefer to utilize an entity where I have a specific individual, with whom I have established a trusted personal relationship, as my point of contact. In short, I want to be able to walk into their office and speak to them face to face when I have a question or problem related to their facet of a transaction. While email may be a convenient form of communication, so is a “choke-slam.” I recommend keeping your ability and options to directly communicate open.
Experienced: I’m not just talking about overall years of experience as in the case of an entity that serves at a national level; I’m talking about someone who has served successfully in the hyper-local market as well.  Do they know the Beaufort market like the back of their hand as it relates to their aspect of real estate transactions? Are they respected in the community? Do they have past local clients who would recommend them? Don’t be afraid to ask.
Reachable: This one is easy. Your transaction is important to you. It should be equally important to those who guide you through a closing. If your initial calls or emails are not returned in a timely manner, you may want to shop around.  The last few years have been tough on agents, lenders, attorneys and inspectors alike.  Don’t settle for someone who does not display their appreciation for your business via timely responses.
Frankness: Despite misguided popular opinion otherwise, the customer is not always right. Sometimes they’re dead wrong and I personally want to utilize an attorney, lender or inspector who can, in a tactful manner, explain to me that my preconceptions are incorrect or unrealistic when that’s the case. A good supporting entity exists to serve your best interests in a transaction, even in the rare cases when their opinion of “your best interests” is hard to hear.
In closing, while your agent will likely give you a list of several lenders, attorneys and inspectors to choose from, it’s your responsibility to find the entity that fits your scenario the best.
And speaking of “fit,” as it turns out, Costa Del Mar sunglasses not only fit well, but coincidentally, only cost about $19 shipping and handling to be replaced/repaired by the factory!

Will and Deena McCullough of Lowcountry Real Estate can be reached directly at 843-441-8286 or via email at

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