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VOL. 125 | NO. 11 | Monday, January 18, 2010


Condo Market Sees Strong Rebound in December

By Eric Smith

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URBAN RENEWAL: Shelby County’s condominium market saw a strong December, highlighted by pockets Downtown such as the South Main Historic Arts District, shown here. -- PHOTO BY LANCE MURPHEY

The latest sales numbers show the Downtown condominium market is making a slow and steady recovery, but perhaps the most telling sign that things are improving can be gleaned from a recent deal brokered by real estate agent Jason Durston.

Durston, co-owner of Get Sold Memphis and a broker for Crye-Leike Realtors, said the seller of a Downtown condo refused to take anything less than the asking price.

“The seller was like, ‘Take it or leave it,’ and got the buyer to come in at full price,” Durston said. “(Buyers are) putting offers in and they’re getting rejected. It’s kind of coming back to the reality of, ‘We still have a stable market, we’re not all losing our shirts on these condos.’”

Granted, the market hasn’t totally returned, but Downtown condos – in fact, the entire condo market – gained plenty of momentum as 2009 came to a close.

Shelby County saw 77 condo sales in December, a 114 percent increase from 36 in December 2008 and a 17 percent increase from 66 in November, according to the latest data from real estate information company Chandler Reports, www.chandlerreports.com.

Condo sales averaged $144,464, up 7 percent from $134,468 in December 2008 but down 9 percent from $158,493 in November, while last month’s total sales volume of $11.1 million was up a staggering 130 percent from $4.8 million in November and also up 6 percent from $10.5 million in November.

Auction magic

December marked the second-highest sales total of 2009 (behind only October’s tally of 79) and just the fifth month in all of 2009 that saw a year-over-year increase from the same month in 2008.

The story Downtown was equally impressive. The Downtown ZIP code of 38103 saw 27 condo sales last month, a 286 percent improvement from seven sales in December 2008 and a 108 percent improvement from 13 sales in November.

DOWNTOWN SAGA: Condo sales Downtown still fell shy of 2008, but the market slowly is showing signs of improvement. -- PHOTO BY LANCE MURPHEY

Downtown condo sales averaged $153,660 in December, down 15 percent from $180,900 in December 2008 and down 29 percent from $215,008 in November, while last month’s sales total volume of $4.1 million marked a 228 percent increase from $1.3 million in December 2008 and a 48 percent increase from $2.8 million in November.

One trend that helped sales numbers – but stunted the average sales price – in December was the auction held at River Tower at South Bluffs at 655 S. Riverside Drive, where 11 condo sales closed during the month.

That auction followed the October auction at the Nettleton, at 435 S. Front St. All 30 of the condos that were for sale during that auction sold at the event, giving the entire Downtown condo market a shot in the arm.

The mood has improved for brokers like Durston, and his Get Sold Memphis partner Mike Parker, that they are even getting multiple offers on properties, something unheard of as recently as last summer.

“It’s been fairly busy. There’s no question,” Durston said. “We’re definitely approaching that time where we’re seeing a little bit of a shift back to where we want to be.”

Closing sales gaps

Tracie Gaia, a real estate agent at Garland Co., said she too is starting to see some more movement in the Downtown condo market. The increase in activity, she added, “may not be as quick as we want,” but any improvement is a welcome change to the way the market had been going.

“People are realizing that the Downtown market is still a place where you want to be,” she said. “It’s just as lively as it always is.”

Gaia said the divide between buyers and sellers is closing, that buyers better understand they may not get the rock-bottom prices they might have gotten last year. At the same time, sellers don’t have to take a bath on their properties.

“We’re not seeing a huge variance between the actual list price versus the overall sales price,” Gaia said. “We’re not seeing people get what they’re asking for, but we’re not seeing this major jump between the list (price) and the sale (price). I think that’s because the sellers are more realistic on their pricing.”

Year to date, condo sales still fell shy of 2008, but they closed the gap as 2009 closed. Shelby County saw 703 condo sales last year, down 7 percent from 759 condo sales during 2008.

Condo sales in 2009 averaged $129,154, an 11 percent decline from $145,449 in 2008, while last year’s total sales volume of $90.8 million was an 18 percent decline from $110.4 million in 2008.

Downtown’s year-to-date total for condo sales was 163, a 12 percent dropoff from 186 in 2008. Those sales averaged $192,504, down 13 percent from $220,512, while last year’s total sales volume of $31.4 million was 23 percent shy of $41 million in 2008.

Chandler Reports is a division of The Daily News Publishing Co. Inc.

PROPERTY SALES 61 262 16,169
MORTGAGES 28 132 10,054
BUILDING PERMITS 88 424 38,360
BANKRUPTCIES 36 92 7,564