December 2009 was the 3rd month in a row in Charleston with monthly residential real estate sales up over previous year. The "bounce" in December was not as high as October and November, BUT, this report comes on January 11. Many agents procrastinate when listings are sold in changing the status, so all the sales may not have been recorded yet in the MLS.
Another piece of good news is the average cost per square foot. It had dipped as low as $122 in November 2009 and was $132 in December 2009. This number tends to shimmy around, so I'll be looking for a three month trend before getting too excited.
These trends are very significant due to the fact that buyers are understandably worried about buying into an unstable market where prices and sales continue to fall. The last indicator we need to see improve further is number of months of inventory. It was up as high as 25 and is still at nearly 16 market wide.
Months of inventory in the more reasonably priced Summerville area dropped as low as 7.3 months and was 10.2 in December. Still, it's an improvement over last year.
Before making a decision for yourself, I suggest drilling into more specific information for the part of town in which you're interested. Each part of town is going to have its own trends. There are still parts of town that are still falling.
Is now a good time to buy in Charleston? I look at risk as a relative not an absolute. I will say that your risk of loss is radically lower than it was 4 months ago, and that your liklihood of buying low and watching your property appreciate is dramatically higher than it was 4 months ago. I make these statements based only on the FACTS I am reporting. There are many other factors that go into real estate pricing and trends including the new Boeing Plant and other new projects slated to move to Charleston.
I am NOT an economist. I do not have the ability to account for destabilizing factors like unemployment, the increasing threat of terrorism, and so on. Then again, economist don't seem to do a very good job making predictions either. My motto has always been, believe nothing your read and half of what you see. Look at the facts first hand. The MLS has the capability of emailing reports directly. If you'd like to receive a first-hand report, please let me know and I'll try to accommodate you.