Saturday May 26, 2012
By Adam Van Brimmer
Appeared on SavannahNow.com (Savannah Morning News), May 12, 2012
The signs of Savannah’s residential real estate recovery won’t be of the flashing, neon-light variety, Realtors and other industry insiders say.
The subtle indicators of a mending market continued to emerge in April, according to Savannah Multi-List Corp. statistics. Inventory fell for the 10th time in the last 11 months. Sales beat April 2011’s performance by nearly 10 percent. And investors extended their frenzy by again snapping up approximately 100 properties, many of them bank owned or in the foreclosure process.
The numbers that caught many a Realtor’s eye involved activity in Savannah’s most desirable areas.
• Skidaway Island saw an influx of retirees as markets in the Northeast and Midwest improve. April marked the gated community’s second best month for sales since the housing slump started.
• The islands — Wilmington, Whitemarsh, Oatland, Isle of Hope and Tybee — regained the momentum enjoyed last summer. The 36 sales are the most since last August.
• West Chatham saw a significant bump in the wake of the announced attendance zones for the new westside high school at New Hampstead.
The market is shifting in some areas, such as the islands and Ardsley Park, as evidenced by a loss of buyer power, Realtors say.
“Buyers playing the kind of hardball they’ve been able to for the last few years are now learning the hard way they are not the only buyers out there anymore,” said Sandy McCloud with Century 21 Fox Properties. “Play too much hardball on Tybee or Wilmington or in Ardsley or at The Landings — places where you aren’t competing with builders — and you lose property.”
Demand is building in underdeveloped areas like West Chatham as well. The months’ supply of inventory in that area, which includes Pooler, hit nine months in April, meaning at the current sales pace all the inventory would be bought up in nine months time. Anything less than eight months is considered undersupplied.
The builders are responding. Fifty lots sold in the West Chatham area in 2012’s first four months; 60 sold all of last year. And south of Pooler near the Bryan County line, builder Lamar Smith has started a new subdivision called Teal Lake, with six homes under construction.
“We certainly are optimistic based on what we’re seeing,” said David Hagan,” Lamar Smith Signature Group’s director of sales and marketing.