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Arkansas home sales up almost 15% in January

Three of Arkansas’ four largest metro areas posted double-digit gains in the number of homes sold in January, with the combined number of homes sold measured by the Arkansas Home Sales Report up 14.8% in January compared to January 2012.

January home sales in the Fort Smith metro area were down almost 20%, with the average home sales price down 11%. Home sales were up 25.85% in central Arkansas, up almost 25% in the Jonesboro area, and were up 7.04% in Northwest Arkansas.

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. The report counts the number of sales closed in January.

The total value of homes sold in the four markets during was $167.644 million, up 11.98% compared to January 2012, and up 19.43% compared to January 2012. The average sales price of a home sold in the four markets during January was $153,380, down 2.47% compared to January 2012, but up 4.24% compared to January 2011.

The average days on market for a home in the four combined markets during January 2013 was 98.35, an improvement over the 106.54 during the same period of 2012.

THE REGIONAL PICTURE
Central Arkansas — Home sales
Jan. 2013: 555
Jan. 2012: 441
Jan. 2011: 406

Fort Smith area — Home sales
Jan. 2013: 71
Jan. 2012: 88
Jan. 2011: 96

Jonesboro area — Home sales
Jan. 2013: 102
Jan. 2012: 88
Jan. 2011: 96

Northwest Arkansas — Home sales
Jan. 2013: 365
Jan. 2012: 341
Jan. 2011: 335

The top five counties in terms of January 2013 home sales:
Pulaski — 238, up compared to 214 in 2012
Benton — 217, up compared to 201 in 2012
Washington — 148, up compared to 140 in 2012
Faulkner — 97, up compared to 48 in 2012
Saline — 88, up compared to 60 in 2012

Link here for a PDF document of the January 2013 data.

‘SPOTS OF OPTIMISM’
Economist Jeff Collins said a trend in Arkansas housing markets has taken hold – sales improved in many areas of the state last year and that state of affairs should continue in 2013.

“I don't see anything that will have a substantial effect on the trend,” he explained.

However, Collins said not all markets in Arkansas are improving.

“I think there are certainly some spots of optimism,” he said. “In Northwest Arkansas, there's reason to feel pretty good. You've got building activity and (housing inventory) absorption going on. … In central Arkansas, growth is going slowly.”

Fort Smith, on the other hand, is still struggling. He said Fort Smith was hard by the recession and is still recovering from the loss of manufacturing jobs.

“In Arkansas, (areas) that were doing well prior to the recession are doing well now, those that were struggling still are,” Collins said.

He said “big drivers of demand” for commercial and residential real estate aren't in place yet. Unemployment remains a concern in most areas of Arkansas and that people who aren't working or comfortable in their jobs aren't likely to purchase homes.

Collins said the jobs outlook is still murky due to businesses being forced to cut costs over the past few years.

“Because of technology, a lot of businesses have figured out how to produce with fewer workers,” he said. “Companies have gotten lean. They've utilized technology, cut costs and have gotten down to the point where there isn't a lot of fat left on the payroll. … They made big investments in equipment and software. A lot of processes were automated.”

Although Arkansas real estate markets have been hit with tight lending standards and a slowly recovering job market, Collins said markets have stabilized and should continue to grow slowly in most areas of the state. He said a spike in mortgage interest rates in the near future is unlikely and homes remain affordable.

REGIONAL PERSPECTIVES
Velda Lueders, a Realtor with Pam McDowell Properties in Conway, said most of those closings were from deals finalized in December. She said December was a great month for her, adding that her activity has slowed down in January and February.

Still, she said low interest rates and attractive prices helped buoy markets in 2012 and expects that trend to continue this year.

“I think people, in general, just feel better about the economy,” she said.

Danny Ladd, a Realtor with Fred Dacus Associates in Jonesboro, said he has also noticed that people are more optimistic about the economy.

“I've been blessed. I've got business happening, I've got business coming. It's looking good to me,” he said, adding that not much has changed in terms of home prices or interest rates over the past couple of years. “It's got to be the attitudes of the buyers.”

Clif Warnock, veteran broker and owner of Warnock Real Estate in Fort Smith, said homebuyer demand is stable. He said consumers with a job and decent credit can still secure mortgages.

He said his firm’s sales were up sightly in 2012, despite all the negative economic news at home and on the national scene.

“Personally we had a pretty strong year, but our agents work really hard on a full-time basis. We didn’t see any major setbacks in 2012 from tighter credit,” he said.

Paul Bynum, statistician with MountData, reports an ending inventory in Northwest Arkansas of 3,135 homes listed for sale in January. That included 313 new construction homes and 2,822 existing homes. Inventory is down 57% from the all-time high in August 2007, and 11% lower than a year ago.

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George Faucette, CEO and co-owner of the Coldwell Banker franchise in Northwest Arkansas, is happy with the Northwest Arkansas momentum.

“Our January closed business was about 20% higher than January 2012. We are still in the slower winter season (for residential business); but if January is a decent indicator, 2013 will result in a healthy increase in sales,” Faucette said.

THE 2012 PICTURE
Home sales in the four markets during 2012 totaled 18,221, up over the 17,851 during 2011 and up almost 3% compared to 2010. The Northwest Arkansas market topped 6,000 home sales in a year for the first time since 2007.

The combined home sales value in the markets during 2012 reached $2.975 billion, up 10.87% compared to 2011 and up 9.99% compared to 2010.

Regionally, the number of homes sold during all of 2012 are up in central Arkansas and Northwest Arkansas, and down in the Fort Smith and Jonesboro metro areas.

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