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Lean listings: Agents report a low number of homes for sale in uptown

CHARLOTTE — When Dennis Marsoun goes to show a home to someone interested in buying in uptown Charlotte, there’s not a lot to show.

Marsoun and other real estate agents say they are noticing a low number of homes listed for sale in uptown, a shortage they blame on various factors: people being reluctant to sell at low prices, not enough new construction, a shrinking supply thanks to an improving economy.

Marsoun, a broker with Charlotte-based Church Street Realty, who specializes in selling Uptown homes, points to the numbers to illustrate just how little is for sale compared with before the Great Recession. He said that, according to the Carolina Multiple Listing Services, in 2006 and 2007 combined approximately 400 properties were on the market in the area inside the Interstate 277 loop.

As of Dec. 5, only 91 properties inside the loop were listed with the CMLS, he said.

Tim McCollum, a broker for realty firm MyTownHome, said pickings for condos in uptown are slimmer than they are in other parts of the Charlotte area. Photo by Nell Redmond

He blames the low number of listings, in part, on the low, average price range at which homes appear to be selling in uptown: from $220 to $240 per square foot.

“People that are putting their properties on the market now at the more realistic prices are selling,” Marsoun said. “The people that are holding out for higher prices, their properties are just sitting on the market. Properties priced accurately are what are selling because there are a lot of buyers out there now. I’m seeing a lot of multiple-bid situations for properties, and that is encouraging.”

What’s not encouraging, agents say, is not having enough supply to show prospective buyers.

Sandy Kindbom, broker-in-charge for the Center City office of Charlotte-based Allen Tate, said that while rental property is being built in uptown, the same can’t be said about for-sale homes, such as condos in high-rise buildings.

“They are really not building anything new,” Kindbom said. “New construction has come back in the suburbs to some degree, but financing is not available for high-rises, I’m told. People are building apartments. It is still almost impossible to get financing for condominiums, and the land is almost too valuable to do single-family or townhomes.”

According to the website for the Carolina Regional Realtor Association, only five single-family homes were listed Monday afternoon. Compare that with 586 single-family listings in the northern part of Mecklenburg County, and it’s clear that real estate agents working in uptown have a lot fewer homes to show prospective buyers. Even rural Rowan County, with its 662 listings, has more for buyers to choose from.

Part of the problem, Kindbom said, is many would-be sellers are underwater — they owe more on their homes than what their homes are worth — and, therefore, reluctant to sell at this time.

“They decide they’d rather rent their property out than have to do a short sale or, worse, lose it to the bank,” she said.

In the meantime, prospective buyers are still looking for a steal, she said.

“The truth of the matter is the deal has already happened to you by the prices going down,” she said. “Some people get that spot on, and others are unhappy and don’t believe they missed the bottom. They might have to lose one or two properties before they acquiesce.”

Tim McCollum, a broker for Charlotte-based MyTownHome, said the pickings for condos in the Charlotte area overall aren’t as slim as they are in uptown. Whereas the Charlotte area has a roughly five-month supply of condos, that figure is lower — approximately 4.8 months’ worth — in uptown, he said.

Two years ago, he said, buyers had their pick when it came to short-sale homes or those in foreclosure.

“But those have thinned out, and there is a lot of competition for them when they do come up.”

As agents deal with having only a handful of uptown homes to show, the CRRA has reported that inventory across the Charlotte area fell in November from the same month a year ago. Last month, there was a 5.7-month supply of homes in the region tracked by the CMLS, down 27.5 percent from November 2011, the CRRA said.

“Only a couple people are brave enough to build in uptown right now,” McCollum said. “Getting funding for new construction is not like it used to be. There is no private lending, for the most part. You have to go to somebody with deep pockets who is willing to create a product that will then sell. Before you could go to a bank and have them do that. The hurdles for doing construction are much greater, so you don’t see anything.”

As agents deal with fewer uptown listings than they can count on two hands, Kindbom said she is getting calls from people interested in buying in the heart of the city. The challenge for her and other agents is finding enough uptown homes that are for sale that they can tour with them, giving them more than, say, five options.

“We have a very busy relocation department in our company, and we are constantly getting inquiries from companies to move people here,” Kindbom said. “That has always been robust, but since the Democratic National Convention happened that has been crazy.”

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