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Home sales rose in 2011, but some Charlotte-area agents watched their incomes go in the opposite direction

By: Scott Baughman//December 27, 2011//

More and less

Home sales rose in 2011, but some Charlotte-area agents watched their incomes go in the opposite direction

By: Scott Baughman//December 27, 2011//

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Lynn Burnett didn’t have the greatest year in 2011.

As an agent for Charlotte-based real estate firm Allen Tate, Burnett said 2011 handed her one of the toughest markets she’s ever seen in her eight years working for the company.

Still, it was a better year than 2010, she said, if only because more people were buying.

“I would say there were probably more buyers this year than in 2010,” she said. “I’ve had three people this year that thought the market was at its lowest point and now was the time to buy because it might not get any better.”

Other agents in the Charlotte area also said there were more buyers this year than in 2010, and statistics from the Carolina Multiple Listing Services show that sales are indeed poised to surpass last year’s.

That doesn’t mean agents are ready to party. Sales might have been up this year for some agents, but their incomes didn’t follow the same trajectory, making 2011 a mixed bag of a year.

“My volume is up but my income is down,” said Lori Bee, an Allen Tate agent in Union County. “Homes are selling for less, and a lot of people are looking for the foreclosure specials and such.”

Bee spent the past year as president of the Union County Realtors Association. While she said she was busier than ever, it didn’t necessarily translate into more sales.

“The market made sure I was making less on each sale,” she said.

According to the CMLS, the average sales price through November for 2010 was $208,954. That’s higher than the 2011 year-to-date sales price of $201,239. But year-to-date closings for 2011 are at about 21,046, up from 20,509 at the same time last year.

Also according to the CMLS, the median sales price slipped from $155,000 in 2010 to $152,000 this year. And the percentage of original list price received also dropped, from 90.1 percent in 2010 to 89.3 percent this year. Homes are taking longer to sell – which cuts into profits – with the average number of days from listing to closing coming in at 152 days this year, up from 144 in 2010.

For Keith Thompson, a broker with Charlotte-based Prudential Carolinas Realty, 2011 will be remembered as the year when it became easier to make deals again.

“Our overall numbers are slightly up from 2010,” he said. “Things have become less difficult per transaction. When the market crashed, people got squirrely and anxious and difficult.

“You’d have unbelievable disputes about what is reasonable access to a home or what is an adequate repair. You’d have both sides dig their heels in and make a big stink out of nothing.”

There have been fewer standoffs this year, and, instead, more sales, he said.

Thompson said he had about 40 closings this year.  Burnett said she had roughly 30.

In Gaston County, independent broker Cathy Ledford said 2011 was OK but not as good as 2010. Most of her business is in Gastonia.

“I had about $1.4 million in closings, which is not bad for someone being in business for themselves,” she said.  “My year has been fairly good considering the economy and everything. I’m still full-time, but I have taken some time away. I have been in business long enough that I have returning clients where I stay busy enough.”

Also in Gastonia, independent broker Janice Hammond said home prices have been going down and, therefore, profits.

“My year went very slowly,” she said. “The economy has a lot to do with it, and then there are stiffer rules and regulations as far as obtaining mortgage loans and getting approvals. I probably had the same number of closings as I did in 2010.”

Thompson, the broker with Prudential Carolinas Realty, echoed that lenders have been strict when it comes to loan approvals. He said his slight increase in volume in 2011 stemmed from buyers and sellers accepting that strictness as the new normal.

“Lender standards have changed a lot in the last few years, but now I feel we know what we’re dealing with across the board,” he said. “This year, I think we’ve normalized and you can know what the rules are.”

Independent agent Alex Rooker, who sells residential and commercial real estate in Hickory, said 2011 was a better year for revenue than 2010.

“Though we’ve done better than average, it has still been a struggle,” he said about his firm. “Overall volume of nonforeclosure sales is down, and prices of those closing have fallen. Commercial properties seem to be the hardest hit.”

For Danny McKenzie, 2011 might be his last year as an agent.

“It has not been great at all for me,” said McKenzie, who owns McKenzie Property Management in Gastonia. “Basically, my area of real estate was selling my own properties. That business is pretty much stagnant, and I have now set up my own rental business.”

McKenzie said now looks like a good time for him to just be a landlord and throw in the towel when it comes to selling.

“I have no vacancies right now,” he said. “I am completely full on the 12 single-family homes I rent out.”

BAUGHMAN can be reached at [email protected].

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