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May home sales up over April, down from last year

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Shallotte-area developments seeing increased business

By Sarah Wilson, Reporter

Home sales in Brunswick County increased last month over April, going from 119 to 151, but the number was a drop from May 2009 when the total hit 170.

Even with the up-and-down numbers, local Realtors and developers say they are seeing increase in buyer interest—mainly in the less-expensive homes and properties.

“Things have picked up some,” Linda Stephens of Rampage Realty on the Holden Beach mainland said this week, but, “It’s not what it should be.”

Stephens said the low interest rates make it a good time to buy, and most potential buyers of inland property are looking for homes in the $200,000 range. Properties closer to the Intracoastal Waterway are going for closer to $500,000, she said.

The average cost of a home is slightly less than last year at this time—$247,256 compared to $266,901.

Mary Ann Bechtel, owner of Mary Ann Bechtel Real Estate at Ocean Isle Beach, said her team has been staying busy selling smaller, less expensive homes, mainly those offered at $250,000 and less.

“A lot of people looking for foreclosures and short sales,” Bechtel said. “We’re getting a lot of Internet inquiries.”

Much of the interest is coming from people looking for vacation homes, while a few are people finally selling their homes in other states and buying permanent residences. Oak Island is a popular destination right now, she said, and condos in the western end of the county are also selling well.

“Our primary market, Ocean Ridge, the $450,000 and below is what’s selling there,” Bechtel said.

According to several local developers, activity in the new home market is also on the rise.

“I feel sure by the first quarter of next year, we’ll be back on track,” said Brian Griffin, developer of Wisteria Place in Shallotte.

Griffin said he has had to adjust his expectations since starting the community, but he’s seeing “the light at the end of the tunnel.”

“[The economy] just made it extremely slow. Once you get used to a way of living, a way of working, for so many years, and it just stops, it’s difficult. But I feel very confident that we’ve bottomed out.”

Griffin plans to begin putting infrastructure in the 70-home, eco-friendly community next month, and, right now, “everything’s on schedule.”

“The traffic itself has increased,” he added.

In the Rutledge development, also in Shallotte, developer H.L. Holmes is also reporting increased business.

“We closed a homesite a couple of weeks ago, and we put a home under contract yesterday,” Holmes said Tuesday.

“Interest is up from a year ago when things were extremely flat. We are excited about it.”

We’ve probably sold 70 homesites total, and we have 20 homes in the sites. We’re under construction on another phase and moving forward.”

Like Griffin, Holmes said Rutledge had to “hunker down” during the downturn and is ready for the increase in business.