NWA home prices rise as market improves
Submitted by The City Wire Staff
story by Kim Souza
Despite record heat in July, agents across Northwest Arkansas say they are busy selling homes and statistics indicate the local market is healthier than it's been in years as home prices improve.
Through July, agents in the two-county area sold 3,512 homes, up just 1.15% with a year ago. But overall sales volume rose 9.99% to $597.71 million over last year, according to the latest report from MountData.com
Median home prices are up nearly 20% from a year ago in the combined Benton and Washington counties. The rising prices signal a healthier market as the supply of homes more adequately fits the demand seen from the local buyers pool, according market insiders.
Two of region's largest firms report stronger sales in 2012 through the month of July.
George Faucette, CEO of the local Coldwell Banker franchise, said his firm's total sales volume is up 26% from a year ago through the first seven months of 2012. He also reports unit sales rose 17% over last year.
Harold Crye, CEO of Crye-Leike Real Estate, says in Northwest Arkansas his firm saw a 17% growth in sales volume through July versus the same time period last year. He said company wide, Crye-Leike's total sales are up a little over 20% through July versus 2011 figures.
With more than half of 2012 in the rearview mirror, these real estate veterans remain optimistic and they credit the local market health to stronger job numbers.
Faucette said for the first time in a long time the real estate market is helping to pull the economy forward on the national scene and the same appears to be true at home.
Linda Marquess, veteran agent with Crye-Leike Real Estate in Fayetteville, is on track for a record sales in 2012 ? the best in 41 years, she says.
"Since February I have had anywhere from 25 to 33 sales pending each month, nearly all of them have been pre-sales for brand new homes in Fayetteville," Marquess said. "When you consider the awful heat we've had, it's amazing to me that people are still out shopping."
She said there is no magic formula for the success she's had this year. Marquess mostly sells new homes in the Cobblestone and Sunbridge subdivisions in Fayetteville.
"I guess there's been some pent up demand and now that the local economy is looking better, I have retired folks, first-time buyers and young professionals all buying new homes. They are getting great amenities in smaller footprints and unbelievably low interest rates - well below 4%," Marquess said.
While new home sales are an important part of the overall market, they only made up about 14% of total pending transactions in the month of July.
The overall market displayed mixed blessings in the month of July.
MountData.com reports preliminary unit sales across the region in July declined 4.7% from a year ago as agents in Benton and Washington counties sold 571 homes. But total sales volume recorded last month was $103.580 million, up 14.9% from the prior year.
The higher volume indicates home prices continued to rise in July, Benton County had a median home price $156,700, up a whopping 36% or $41,700 more than a year ago. Prices are also moving higher in Washington County with median home values of $145,000 in July, up from $120,000 one year ago.
Faucette said his firm posted its strongest July numbers in four years. Total written business that includes closed transactions and sales still pending, rose 28% for units and 19% for total volume over the year-ago July period.
Paul Bynum, analyst with MountData.com, said overall pending sales are trending higher in July and August and are the best forward looking indicator for the local market.
Overall market inventory stood at 3,665 homes in July, down from 3,737 a year ago. New home inventory is higher with 335 listings in July, compared to 292 a year ago. But existing home inventory continues to shrink, down 22% from a year ago, according to Bynum.
The median sales price per square foot in July was $82, up $2 from the previous month. The total days on market for homes selling in July averaged 65 days, which was five days longer than in June, according to MountData.com.
Bynum says there is 6-month supply of homes listed for sale on the market below the $150,000 price range, which indicates a neutral market. Low price categories in the $100,000 range are in a clear seller's market, while higher price ranges tend to favor buyers, he said.
The seller's market index, a metric that measures how favorable the market is for sellers, reached its highest reading since 2006, Bynum said.
Home Sales (January through July)
2012: 2,167 units, $380.035 million
2011: 2,114 units, $329.336 million
2010: 1,935 units, $314.093 million
2012: 1,345 units, $217.673 million
2011: 1,364 units, $192.454 million
2010: 1,266 units, $201.218 million
Median Sales Price (January through July)