More lower-priced homes sold in Wake County from August to September, but they left the market quickly — less than a week on average, according to a pair of new reports.

Homes priced under $300,000 accounted for 42% of all sales in the county in September, increasing from 38% in August, according to a recent report from Wake County Register of Deeds Charles Gilliam. The monthly median sale price decreased from $341,000 to $329,500, the report said.

In June, 43% of home sales were below $300,000. That number was 42% in July, according to Gilliam’s reports earlier this year.

These numbers lag behind figures from the first quarter of this year, when the market share of homes sold at less $300,000 was 47% and the median home sale was $310,000.

Montie Smith, a real estate agent in the Triangle, said the increased prices are due to high demand for affordable homes in Wake County driving them off the market.

“The lack of inventory, of good inventory, affordable inventory in our market is driving bidding wars,” Smith said. “More than I’ve ever seen it, and I’ve been in the business for over 30 years.”

Month Market share sold under $300K Median home sale price
Q1 2020 47%

$310,000

June 43%

$312,500

July 42% $325,000
August 38%

$341,000

September 42%

$329,500

Quick off the market

Homes priced under $344,000 are among the fastest sold in Raleigh, according to new Zillow research.

Homes priced at $260,000 or less were sold in four days on average in September. For homes priced from $260,000 to $344,000, it was five days, Zillow reports.

Homes sold above these price ranges all stayed on the market longer with the highest price range — $488,000 and up — staying on the market for an average of 15 days.

Between September 2019 and March, homes at all price points sold more quickly.

In March, homes sold under $186,000 left the market in five days on average, compared to six days in September, Zillow reports. Homes priced from $186,000 to $260,000 left the market in seven days, compared to eight days. Homes $260,000 to $344,000 were sold in 16 days, compared to 18 days just months earlier.

Home price Avg. days on market, September 2020

Avg. days on market, March 2020

Avg. days on market, September 2019
<$186K 4 5 6
$186K-$260K 4 7 8
$260K-$344K 5 16 18
$344K-$488K 6 16 23
>$488K 15 19 34

The data on home sales comes as an $80 million dollar affordable housing bond is on the ballot for Wake County voters Tuesday. The bond would offer financial assistance for first-time homeowners and build and repair homes in the county.

It’s the first housing bond in almost a decade and would likely raise Raleigh’s property tax rate by .78 cents per $100 valuation.

The owner of a median-price home would pay $23.40 more in city property taxes a year.

However, some housing advocates are urging residents to vote against the bond, arguing it doesn’t do enough for those considered extremely low income.

Increased costs and stagnating wages

Since 2014, housing costs in Wake County have outpaced median wages by almost double, according to a study published by Construction Coverage, which publishes research relevant to the construction industry.

From 2014 to 2019, the median price of a house in the county increased from $223,000 to $303,000, an increase of over 35%, according to an April report from Gilliam.

In that same time span, household median incomes went from $66,634 to $84,215, an increase of just over 26%, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Kathryn Sabbeth, professor at UNC-Chapel Hill who specializes in housing law, said that the lack of affordable housing forces people with low incomes into the rental market.

Affordability has also decreased in the rental market as prices have increased in Raleigh, Cary and Durham, the N&O reported.

Sabbeth said someone ideally would spend 30% of their income on housing, but with increasing prices and stagnating wages, she said people now are increasingly spending more.

“When their housing eats so much of their income, they have to do without in other areas,” Sabbeth said. “If you’re spending 50 or higher percent of your income on housing, you have less money left over for clothing, food, school supplies.”

Renters paying large portions of their income on housing are losing access to home-buying opportunities in Raleigh.

Smith said someone would have to look to Johnston County to find a home for under $200,000.

“Clayton, Garner, Johnston County, Angier. Those are all growth markets, but not everybody wants to commute that far from Angier into Raleigh,” Smith said.

Sabbeth said the commute can be a financial strain to many families who rely on income in Raleigh’s job market.

“They may have increased gas costs,” Sabbeth said. “A car that they had that worked for the limited purpose they had used it before was fine, and now is no longer good enough to make the trek back and forth from a longer distance.”

She said people who try to stay in their neighborhoods are forced into less ideal housing conditions.

“It is extremely common that when people face an involuntary move, the result is to move into a home that is not in as good condition,” Sabbeth said. “This can range from being just slightly less good condition but to really quite substandard conditions.”

Relocation also has an impact on their social well-being, Sabbeth said.

“They may be further away from community ties that are really important to people,” Sabbeth said. “People have community ties. They have ties to religious institutions.”

Sabbeth also said homeowners in general have privileges that renters don’t.

“Being a renter means that you are depending on another private actor, for your home, for the condition and stability of your home,” Sabbeth said. “It puts the tenant in a potentially precarious position because of the power that their landlord will have over something that is so important to their basic daily living experience.”

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Ben Sessoms covers housing and gentrification in the Triangle for the News & Observer through Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in newsrooms across the country to report on under-covered issues. Before joining the News & Observer, Ben covered long-term hurricane recovery in eastern North Carolina for Carnegie-Knight News21 and education in Iredell County for the Statesville Record & Landmark. He is a 2019 alum of Appalachian State University.