June home sales across Benton and Washington counties were mixed, but with half of 2012 already in the books, insiders say the market is healthier than a year ago.
Benton County agents reported 354 home sales in June, down 14% from the same month in 2011. The number of sales in Washington County were basically flat at 235 transactions in June, according to MountData.com.
Agents sold 2,915 homes in the two-country area during the first half of the year, that was 38 more than sold in the same period of 2011.
Total sales volume, which includes both sides of the transaction, totaled $313.659 million in the first half of this year, up 13.47% from a year ago in Benton County. Total volume grew to $175.644 million in Washington County, also up 13.4% from last year.
Vickie Briolat, broker with Crye-Leike Real Estate in Bentonville, said a warmer winter and spring helped to get buyers out a little earlier than normal which equated to bigger paychecks for agents to start 2012.
Since then, she said buyers have thinned some, but homes are selling quicker than in past years.
“We are seeing some multiple offers, better appraisal numbers and it feels good to see this market moving again,” Briolat said,
Paul Bynum, market analyst with MountData, agrees the residential fundamentals are improving. He said inventories are down to their lowest levels in five years. In the two-county region there was a 7.7 month supply of homes on the market at the end of June.
In two of the past six months the number of sales in Benton County fell behind levels recorded a a year earlier, but prices have continued to improve each month this year.
Median home prices rose 18.8% in Benton County last month, they are up 15.92% for the first half of this year. MountData shows the six-month accumulated median home price totaled $139,000 or $75.10 per square foot in Benton County.
Average home prices totaled $173,197, up 10.65% from a year ago across Benton County. Agents say home sales in Bentonville and some neighborhoods in western Rogers got a shot in the arm in the first quarter as Wal-Mart brought back roughly 100 jobs in its apparel division with roughly a dozen vendors also relocating to Bentonville.
This outside metric helped to push both median and average home sale prices higher in recent months in Benton County.
Briolat says she has done more cash deals in recent months and investors are also back in the market place looking for bargain rental properties.
Median prices in Washington County were $133,125 for full six-month period, up 15.76% and not necessarily tied to the Walmart-effect. The median price per-square-foot totaled $79.7, up 14.51% from a year ago.
Agents said that could be related to the fact that more new homes are selling.
George Faucette, CEO of the local Coldwell Banker franchise, said new home sales are up substantially, over $40 million for the first 6 months, year-over-year.
New homes carry a higher price per-square-foot than existing homes listed for sale.
Faucette has agents selling in both counties and is the largest firm in the immediate region.
“Our number of sales were flat for June, but our sales volume was up about 10%, which means prices have increased nicely. Year over year for the six months, we are up about 20% in sales volume” Faucette said.
He said market dynamics are improving and he’s optimistic that will continue as interest rates are about as low as they can go and prices have started to appreciate.
Austin Bivens, ReMax agent in Springdale, says the new normal for Northwest Arkansas is “inconsistently consistent” incredibly busy for two weeks with six closings and a week or two of nothing.
He said buyers of new homes are now are getting the benefit of great deals that builders got on lots they bought from banks last year. Bivens says that has made it harder for some sellers with existing homes to compete on price.
“For the market to fully recover, we are going to need to see more price appreciation for sellers who want to move up. The price recovery we have seen is good, but not necessarily evenly distributed among the region’s sellers.” Bivens said.
On the positive side, Bivens said homes are selling more quickly and buyers are starting to get that message.
“Buyers who try to beat down prices on attractive properties could lose out. I had two homes priced at $129,000 and $119,000. They got mutiple offers and went under contract in one week. One of my buyers waited too long and lost out on two different homes priced at $250,000 in southwest Rogers. Now they are looking to have one built,” he said.
Home Sales (January through June)
2012: 1,811 units, $313.659 million
2011: 1,766 units, $276.415 million
2010: 1,708 units, $272.846 million
2012: 1,104 units, $175.644 million
2011: 1,111 units, $155.232 million
2010: 1,091 units, $170.852 million
Median Sales Price (January through June)