Editor’s note: This is the July 2012 report of The City Wire’s Arkansas Home Sales Report. The report, released monthly, accounts for between 70% and 75% of total Arkansas home sales. The report is sponsored by Fort Smith-based Westark Plumbing.
The number of homes sold in Arkansas’ four largest metro markets was down almost 6% in July, with year-to-date sales in 2012 up only 1.16% compared to the 2011 period.
There were 1,638 homes sold during July in the four large market areas measured by The City Wire’s Arkansas Home Sales Report, down 5.75% compared to July 2011, but up 21.51% compared to July 2010.
The City Wire’s Arkansas Home Sales Report captures home sales data in the state’s 14 most populated counties within the state’s four largest metro areas — Central Arkansas, Fort Smith area, Jonesboro/Northeast Arkansas and Northwest Arkansas.
The report, which records closed sales, accounts for between 70% and 75% of total Arkansas home sales.
During the first seven months of the year, home sales in the four markets totaled 10,480, up slightly over the 10,360 in the same period of July 2011, but down 4.59% compared to the same period in 2010.
The total value of July homes sold in the four markets was $280.559 million, up 7.3% compared to July 2011, and up almost 27% compared to July 2010. The average sales price of a home sold in the four markets during July was $171,282, well ahead of the $150,000 during July 2011.
For the first seven months of 2012, the value of homes sold in the four markets totaled $1.689 billion, up 10.09% compared to the same period of 2011, and up 1.26% compared to the same period of 2010.
Michael Pakko, University of Arkansas Institute for Economic Advance chief economist and state economic forecaster, said lower sales over the past couple of months have fallen outside expectations.
He said he expected to see summer sales pick up compared to last year, pointing out that the unforeseen and continued sluggish job markets and ho-hum consumer confidence may have weighed on sales.
Blake Roussel, a Realtor with Exit Realty in Conway, said lead generation and hard work are essential to staying in business in the current economic climate.
“If you don't have a good work ethic, you're probably not in business anymore,” said Roussel, who has been in the business since 2004.
He said social media has been critical to staying in business. Around 50% of his clients come through social networking.
“Any way you can network is a positive,” Roussel said.
Roussel said just knowing people has helped, too. He graduated from Searcy High School and received a bachelor's degree from the University of Central Arkansas in 2006, meaning he knew a lot of people who were gearing up to buy their first homes when he was building his real estate practice.
REGIONAL FIGURES (Year-to-date)
Central Arkansas — Home sales
Jan.-July 2012: 5,070
Jan.-July 2011: 4,873
Jan.-July 2010: 5,597
Fort Smith area — Home sales
Jan.-July 2012: 928
Jan.-July 2011: 979
Jan.-July 2010: 1,077
Jonesboro area — Home sales
Jan.-July 2012: 970
Jan.-July 2011: 1,030
Jan.-July 2010: 1,109
Northwest Arkansas — Home sales
Jan.-July 2012: 3,512
Jan.-July 2011: 3,478
Jan.-July 2010: 3,201
The top five counties in terms of Jan.-July 2012 home sales:
Pulaski — 2,417, up compared to 2,280 in Jan.-July 2011
Benton — 2,167, up compared to 2,114 in Jan.-July 2011
Washington — 1,345, down compared to 1,364 in Jan.-July 2011
Saline — 774, up compared to 761 in Jan.-July 2011
Craighead — 743, down compared to 846 in Jan.-July 2011
Link here for a PDF document of the July 2012 data.
• Northwest Arkansas
Two of the 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 and 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, a veteran agent with Crye-Leike Real Estate in Fayetteville, is on track for 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.”
• Fort Smith region
Kevin King, a broker with Weichert King Realtors in Fort Smith, said while sales transactions are lower in some months against last year, one positive he sees in 2012 is that prices are moving higher and tracking a national trend in that direction.
King said when you consider the jobs lost in the greater Fort Smith area, the local real estate market is resilient. He credits that in part to active investor buying.
“We have a strong rental market — lots of demand and not that much supply in the single family housing area. Rents are rising as a result. I know people who have opted to rent out their homes instead of selling them and it’s working out quite well for some,” King said.
He also notes the sluggish local job market has forced more household consolidation as individuals share living expenses in an effort to save money.
Mont Sagely, broker with Sagely & Edwards Realtors in Fort Smith, is also encouraged to see investors back in the local market.
“We are seeing a few foreclosure listings trickle back into the inventory and investors are snapping them up quickly which is helping to move things along. I am not sure we have yet seen the full impact of the job losses in this market, but so far we are holding our own,” Sagely said.
• Jonesboro area
Jonesboro Realtor Fred Dacus, with Fred Dacus Associates, said he has noticed improved sales in his office this year but isn't treating them as a trend just yet. During an average week, he said his office might be involved in 7 sales.
These days, he's counting 10 weekly sales as a “good week” and, last week, his business posted 14 sales. About half of those sales were for properties costing $200,000 or more while the other half were for homes costing less than that.
“We've seen good activity in the higher price ranges,” Dacus said. “In the past 30 days, a business has shown a marked increase in residential sales. We hope to see that continue.”
• Central Arkansas
In central Arkansas, some Realtors who came in during the “boom years” around 2005 said they've survived down markets through hard work.
“The economy is horrible,” said Eric Jones, who went into business with his wife, Carol, with Crye-Leike at the Kanis Road Branch in Little Rock in 2005. “But even though it's really bad, we had our best year ever last year."
Jones said 2011 “could have been better,” pointing out that one of the problems facing buyers and sellers has to do with enhanced lending regulations. Since the demise of the subprime lending market in 2007, Jones said a combination of federal regulations and internal lending policies have resulted in delayed closings and some mortgages that simply won't close.
“It can be maddening to deal with,” he said. “Everyone – buyers and sellers – put their lives on hold for a closing. It's disappointing when that doesn't happen.”
Jones said some lenders are more efficient than others when it comes to completing all necessary steps for a closing. People purchasing homes are well advised to make sure they have completed all steps necessary to close mortgages and follow the instructions of their lenders to the letter.
Jones said increased requirements for appraisers have also caused some delays in closings.
“It's harder to close loans, but there's still business out there,” he said. “It's hard to argue with low rates.”