Cash buyers help keep Grand Strand real estate market alive

Rising interest rates are one reason behind the explosion in people using cash to buy homes. According to RealtyTrac, South Carolina ranks fifth in the nation for cash sales, with close to 50 percent of buyers using cash.

Grand Strand real estate market analyst Tom Maeser says the local industry can thank Baby Boomers who are getting ready to retire.

He says about 49 percent of the Grand Strand area's home and condo buyers today are using cash.

"They're mostly people from outside the area that love to vacation here, so they're buying a second home, putting it in the rental program," Maeser said.

Maeser says cash buyers made up just 13 to 15 percent of the market during the housing boom of 2006.

Without the new cash buyers, Maeser says the Grand Strand real estate market would have been devastated.

"Thank God we have that, because it's saved our industry tremendously here at the beach."

Real estate agent Michael King of KingOne Properties says better marketing of the Grand Strand has helped attract more buyers, along with the area's affordability.

"Based on other areas of the country - South Florida, all these other places - Myrtle Beach is still a very, very economical place to purchase," King said.

King adds that having so many cash buyers in the market ends up helping not just the realtors, but the whole Grand Strand economy.

"They come into the market and they're kind of cash heavy, so they eat more out at the restaurants, instead of bringing food back to the condo, they do a little more shopping, because they have a little more cash than the average person," he said.

Maeser says home sales are increasing on the Grand Strand and prices are finally starting to rebound, but there are still plenty of foreclosed properties on the market, which makes it a great time to be a home buyer.

He adds, having so many people with cash to buy homes is also great for the industry - for now.

"As long as they don't run out," he laughs.