Why Housing in Charlotte Is Holding Strong

Most of the nation is singing the housing blues. But home sellers are singing a different tune in Charlotte, N.C., where prices rose in March, for the third month in a row, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Indexes.

What makes the North Carolina city so strong? “We never had a housing bubble,” says Mark Baldwin, executive vice president of Home Builders Association of Charlotte. “Home prices here have never been artificially inflated, and we never had the investor market that other areas in the country had.” Indeed, prices in the Charlotte metro area are up since the national housing market peaked in Q04 2005, according to data published on WSJ.com.

The builders group is trying to spread the “truth about Charlotte” through a recently started Web site, charlottebetweenthelines.com, that tries to draw distinctions between the local real estate market and the national market.

According to the Web site, investors accounted for 14% of sales in Charlotte compared to the national average of about 25% in 2006. And, inventory levels in Charlotte for new homes average a seven months of supply compared to an average of 10 to 12 months in some markets.

Meantime, jobs in Charlotte’s financial sector and other large employers, such as NASCAR, are drawing new residents. The area also benefits from an influx of “half-backs,’’ or snowbirds who moved to Florida from the Northeast and are now relocating Charlotte and other parts of the Carolinas to avoid the traffic and insurance costs in the Sunshine State, Mr. Baldwin says.

In response to our post about Case-Shiller this morning, one reader wrote: “Sorry, for Charlotte you are so wrong…In my neighborhood, prices have and are starting to drop (Davidson, N.C., near Charlotte). Inventory is beginning to pile up.” The builders association also notes that sales have slowed and new home construction has dropped off in the area because of the tighter mortgage credit. So Charlotte is clearly not immune from the national malaise.

Any other Charlotte residents care to chime in?