NWA November home sales dip, record year overall

story by Kim Souza
ksouza@thecitywire.com

The early start of winter usually signals seasonal slumber for the local real estate market, but despite softer overall sales in November a few agents are celebrating a record year.

MountData.com reports 461 Benton and Washington county home sales in November, down 4.5% from the same month last year. In Benton County agents sold 292 homes valued at $49.835 million. The number of units sold dropped 9%, while sales volume decreased 15.7% from November 2012. In Washington County sales rose slightly during November with 169 units valued at $30.853 million. This market rose 4% from a year ago.

Coldwell Banker, the largest local real estate firm, reported unit sales rose 12% in November, while total sales volume was up just 1%.

“We continue to write a great deal of new business, although that has decreased somewhat since September, which would account for the pullback in closed business in both October and November. Some of that decrease is seasonal, and some is due to the tremendous amount of business we did in the April to August period,” said George Faucette, CEO of the local Coldwell Banker franchise.

Harold Crye, CEO of Crye-Leike Real Estate, reports his firm bucked the downward trend last month with total sales volume rising 8% from a year ago, selling 177 homes across Benton and Washington counties.

“November was my best month in five years,” said Helen Dansker, Crye-Leike agent in Bella Vista.

QUICK SALE
Dansker recently listed a home in Bella Vista that went under contract at the first showing.

“It had been listed four days and the first couple to see it made a $244,000 cash offer on the spot. It happened so fast it totally caught the sellers off guard. These buyers were locating to Northwest Arkansas from Texas and wanted a quick closing,” Dankser said.

The buyers and sellers agreed to a quick closing with a delayed possession date. She said the sellers ended up renting the home from the buyers for one month while they shopped for another house.

“These sellers were able to find a smaller home that they liked in the same general neighborhood within a few days, but they had planned to have a large family gathering at Thanksgiving with several out-of-town guests and moving during that time just wasn’t feasible,” Dansker said.

WHAT’S NEXT
Nicky Dou, executive broker with Keller Williams in Fayetteville, said the snow and ice in recent days has not slowed her business.

“I have put two homes under contract this week. One of the subdivisions that I represent, Hyde Park, has had tremendous activity in the past two months with both pre-sales and existing homes. I also have four homes waiting for the snow to melt so that I can go list them. In short, the sales climate is hot unlike the weather in Northwest Arkansas,” Dou said.

She said prices have been steady in recent months, but predicts new home prices will rise in 2014.

“Buyers still think they can get good deals but it is harder and harder to find the fire sales and so I am trying to educate both buyers and sellers alike. For sellers, pricing correctly is key along with property marketing, good photography, etc.,” Dou said.

Faucette is also optimistic for 2014 citing the increase in new construction which should maintain the balance in the supply and demand of homes and help to keep overall pricing of homes from getting out of hand.

“We are seeing substantially fewer foreclosures and that segment of the market will continue to ameliorate over the next 18 to 24 months,” he added.

Dansker also looks forward to 2014 despite the cautionary concerns of a still somewhat sluggish overall national economy.

Mortgage applications declined each week during November, but turned positive to start December with a modest 1% increase for home purchases, according to Mortgage Bankers Association. The Mortgage Bankers Association estimates that the full-year 2013 purchase mortgage volume will be up 11% year over year.

Bankrate reported Thursday (Dec. 12) that mortgage rates have held steady, with the 30-year fixed mortgage at 4.55%, unchanged from the previous week. The 15-year fixed rate was 3.6%, down slightly from 3.62% in the previous week.

RECORD YEAR

Dou said 2013 has been a good year doubling her production from 2012, after holding her income steady between 2011 and 2012.

Through 11 months of 2013, MountData reports 6,667 home sales in the two county area. Unit sales are up 17.3% from the same period last year. Total sales volume has exceeded $1.21 billion so far this year, up 22% from 2012.

Faucette, said through November his firm has seen sales volume rise 20% with 18% more units sold than last year’s time period.

Crye-Leike reports similar local numbers year to date with a 15% rise in the number of units sold this year. Total sales volume for the local Crye-Leike market totaled $353 million at the end of November, rising 17% from a year ago, according to Crye. He said his entire firm is on pace for another great year with $4.78 billion in sales through November, up 16% from 2012.

The rise is total sales volume has been boosted by rising prices throughout this year, but most agents expect to see home price appreciations begin to level off at around 3% annually in the local market.

If the Northwest Arkansas market tracks with the national market, 2014 could be another good year. Fitch Ratings reported Thursday a positive outlook for the U.S. housing sector in 2014, based on its view that the year would see “a slowly expanding economy.” The expansion could help maintain prices and consumer confidence.

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“Home prices are likely to increase by 2.5%-3.5% next year with employment showing gains and consumer confidence likely to improve,” Fitch Managing Director Robert Curran said in the statement, adding that sales should benefit from new inventory.

MEDIAN PRICES
So far this year median sales prices have risen to $150,000 in Benton County, which is roughly $82.20 a square foot. One year ago the median price stood at $145,000 or $77.70 per square foot, according to MountData.com.

Washington County reports a median sales price of $148,000 or $85.70 per square foot. This compares to $139,000 or $81.40 per square foot one year ago. In the past two years median prices have risen 25% in Benton County while they climbed 23.9% in Washington County.

Market analysts said smaller inventory levels of new and existing homes and fewer distressed property listing comparisons are helping to fuel the price increase.

Home builders told The City Wire in recent months that 2014 would bring higher new home prices as land prices rise with new development and they continue to see higher material costs.

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