Unfortunately, January 2010 did not follow the trend of the previous 3 months. October, November and December 2009 all showed substantial improvements of the same month in 2008. January 2010 sales are slightly below January 2009 sales, 405 vs 434. This information is read directly from MLS statistics. There are usually some late postings by agents that don't change the status in the MLS, but it isn't going to be more than 10 or 20. In other words, not enough to exceed last year.
There is some good news. Average $ per square foot have remained steady at $133. This measure had dipped as low as $123 in August of '09. It could also be considered good news that the January sales are not substantially lower than the previous year. In other words, the bleeding has stopped and the recovery is beginning. It's becoming increasingly safer to get back into the market if you're an investor, and if you're looking to change homes, or if you're renting and you want to buy, it is relatively safe to go ahead and make your move. Risk is relative of course. If you want to be super safe, you can wait until we have one to three more months of good sales to assure yourself that the value of your home isn't going to drop after you buy it.
There is a silver lining in this cloud generally speaking. People (like me) that purchased homes in 2004 to 2006 aren't going to like what I'm about to say, but it's true. Home prices in Charleston were getting too high to the point of being unnaffordable. $175,000 for a Centex Fairfax home at 1589 square feet is steep, even with 6% interest rates. I don't mean to single out Centex, but this is a very popular floor plan for investors and first time home buyers. My point is, $100 plus for a home in Summerville, Hanahan, or Goose Creek is just very difficult to afford. Prices haven't dropped a great deal on the North side of the Charleston area, but they have dropped some, maybe $15/square foot. That's $30,000 on a 2000 square foot home for those mathematically challenged.
Happy house hunting out there.