October home sales strong in NWA

story by Kim Souza
ksouza@thecitywire.com

Local real estate agents possibly put 17.13% more money in their pockets in October, thanks to active buyers and higher home prices from the same month in 2011.

Agents across Benton and Washington counties sold 470 homes in October with a value of $84.44 million, compared to $69.973 million for 420 sales in the year-over-year period, according to MountData.com.

One of the largest firms in Northwest Arkansas, Crye-Leike Real Estate, reported $28 million in Northwest Arkansas sales for October, up 18% from the prior year. CEO Harold Crye said unit sales also rose 23% in this market.

Year to date, Crye said his local agents have rung up $273 million in sales – a 16% jump from a year ago.

The local good news is part of a bigger trend according to Crye, who said company-wide his firm did 21% more business – $380 million – in October than last year.

Paul Bynum, market analyst with MountData.com, reports the housing inventory in the two-county area had 3,454 residential listings at the end of October, down 15% from a year ago, and 52% lower than the all-time high 7,192 homes in August 2007.

He said reduced inventory has helped sellers by pushing prices higher. With an average 6.8 month supply of homes at the end of October, much of the local market now favors sellers -- reversing a four-year buyers market.

Median home prices in October were $152,455 in Benton County and $140,000 in Washington County. Prices rose 25.8% and 12%, respectively across the two counties.

Anthony Clark, agent with Bassett & Mix in Fayetteville, said 2012 has been a good year for his business that in part to rebounding prices.

“I work a niche business in the historical district and Wilson Park area of Fayetteville. A couple of years ago I had to tell some sellers to hold off putting their homes on the market given the low prices and tepid demand. But in 2012 they came to me and were able to sell their homes at much higher prices and then repurchase at lower interest rates than they would have seen in 2010” Clark said.

He recently closed three deals, at either full asking price or a little over asking, including an E. Fay Jones construction that a couple purchased as they moved to Fayetteville from out-of-state.

Clark said people who want to sell need to get their homes ready to show, and that means making repairs, sprucing up and in some cases doing cosmetic changes if they want to command top dollar.

“I am encouraged for the spring selling season because I am already getting calls from folks who say they want to list in the spring and know they need to start getting ready now,” Clark said.

Not only are homes going at higher prices, they are spending fewer days on the market according to Mike Maxwell, agent with Crye-Leike in Bentonville.

Bynum reports the average days on market in October was 65 from list to contract, but Maxwell beat that by a mile.

Maxwell said he has three listings that sold in near record time – 5 days, 7 days, and a new construction that closed in 37 days. He echoed Clark’s sentiment, saying sellers who clean up properties and then price aggressively have the best chance to snag an offer.

“It only takes one showing to get a sale, but it’s incredibly important that the home be priced right and when an offer comes in, hopefully the two agents can negotiate a deal that works for both sides,” Maxwell said.

He said October was unusually busy, as people were trying to get deals closed before the election. He expects traffic to slow through December as it does seasonally, but admits this year has been anything but normal.

“Our winter was incredibly busy, then we slowed some in the summer which is usually really busy, but then ramped up this fall, when things typically start to wind down,” Maxwell said.

Agents have sold 5,112 homes in the two counties during the first 10 months of this year. Transactions total in excess of $888.95 million, up 17% from the period in 2011. Median home prices are also up 17% to $140,000 for the two counties, which has helped to bolster sales volume.

The agents say business is healthier than it’s been in several years and they’re hoping the momentum can be sustained.

Bynum said pending transactions are a leading indicator of the future sales. In November there were 818 new listings and 560 pending transactions. That compared to 677 new listings with 437 pending sales a year ago. He said the 28% increase in pending should bode well for closings in the next 30 to 45 days.

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Home Sales (January through October)
Benton County
2012: 3,197 units, $571.191 million
2011: 3,064 units, $476.409 million
2010: 2,782 units, $457.288 million

Washington County
2012: 1,915 units, $317,657 million
2011: 1,958 units, $283.103 million
2010: 1,777 units, $276.110 million
Source: MountData.com

Median Sales Price (January through October)
Benton County
2012: $144,250
2011: $119,900
2010: $129,900

Washington County
2012: $137,000
2011: $117,900
2010: $128,000
Source: MountData.com

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