By Daja Terry
The housing market in the Cape Fear area continues to show signs of strength, as housing sales near an all-time high and rents growing higher for seven consecutive months, according to recent real estate reports.
Cape Fear Realtors, which represents real estate professionals in New Hanover, Pender and Brunswick counties, reported steady growth in housing sales in April and May, 2018. In New Hanover County, homes are selling faster and for higher prices than they were at the same time last year, with sales data approaching the all-time high set in May 2005.Meanwhile, rents are also rising in Wilmington, according to the July 2018 Wilmington Rent Report from Apartment List, a website that features apartments for rent.
CFR reported brisk existing home sales in April and May, with 1,082 homes sold throughout the three-county region in April, up 13.2 percent over the previous year, and 1,241 in May, a 15 percent jump over May 2017. And while the average sales price of $298,152 decreased by one percent in May, the average sales price per square foot of $160 was up more that 6 percent over last May. Monthly supply dropped 24.5 percent to a four month’s supply over last May and days on the market dropped four days to 32 days from last May, CFR reported.
“We expect to see this strong demand for homes continue across the Cape Fear Area this year with low housing supply and housing affordability remaining a concern,” said CFR President Fred Gainey in a press release. “Robust gains are back across the Cape Fear Region for existing-home sales, even as low supply and higher mortgage rates continued to affect overall affordability.”
Although permanent homebuyers are the driving force behind economic growth in New Hanover County, renters act as a large portion of economic stability in Wilmington. According to the July 2018 Rent Report, the rent is still cheaper than in most major cities across the United States, even though it is experiencing the fastest growth at more than 3.3 percent when looking at the year-over-year data.
Wilmington rents have increased one-half percent over the past month,with median rents in Wilmington at $740 for a one-bedroom apartment and $930 for a two-bedroom. The report noted that it was the seventh straight month that the city has seen rent increases after a decline in November of last year. Wilmington’s year-over-year rent growth leads the state average of one percent, as well as the national average of 1.4 percent.
The state of North Carolina itself has an increase of one percent and the country is seeing an increase of 1.4 percent, so Wilmington is experiencing stronger rent growth in its small area compared to the rest of the nation. Wilmington’s median two-bedroom rent of $930 is below the national average of $1,180, according to the rent report. Over the past year, rent increases have been occurring not just in the city of Wilmington, but across the entire state, the report said.
The high demand and low supply of housing has affected the market’s ability to keep housing affordable for both potential homeowners and home renters, according to CFR’s Cape Fear Area Housing Economic Report released in June. With Wilmington being a hot spot for tourism and vacation homes, the cost of living may see an increase, and rent and mortgage rates will be among those factors, the report said.