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Fewer Northwest Arkansas home sales in March curb quarterly results

story by Kim Souza
ksouza@thecitywire.com

Lingering winter snow and icy roads cooled off the Northwest Arkansas housing market in March with sales volume down 5.3% from the same 2013 period.

MountData.com reports total March home sales of $104 million, compared to $109 million in the same month last year. Agents sold 576 homes last month in the two-county area. Units sales were down 6.7% from the year-ago period.

Benton County, the strong leader for the past two years, began a caution lap last month reporting 350 home sales, down 17.2% from March 2013. In Washington County, agents fared better posting 16% more home sales (226) in March. (March home sales represent properties that likely went under contract in mid-January, creating a 30- to 45-day lag to closing.)

Jim Long, an agent with Crye-Leike Real Estate in Bentonville, said he didn’t close any properties in March, but he did put two listings under contract and he had several closings in the prior two months.

“There is ample buyer demand. When the sun comes out consumers are eager to look and purchase. But these off-and-on winter storms have kept things a little off balance lately.” Long said. “On the whole, I’m off to a better start than last year.”

Agents agree the metrics in the local market are good for buyer and sellers right now. Interest rates are quite low around 4.19% APR.

Long said home prices are continuing to rebound, though not as fast as many sellers would like. He just put a home under contract in West Fayetteville for a couple that had looked at more than 20 properties. They one they bought was on the market just two days and it sold for nearly full asking pricing, Long added.

Vicki Briolat, a broker with Crye-Leike in Bentonville, said she had three offers for the same house that came within just a few days of listing. The seller is relocating to Wisconsin and had to push the closing back to May 1 because he hasn't been able to house hunt for himself given weather and short time restraints. She is also working with a couple she represented nine years ago with their first home purchase in Elkins.

"Their house sold really quickly and they are under contract for a bigger home home in Fayetteville. There are plenty of buyers, but not enough listings," Briolat said.

Nicky Dou, a broker with Keller Williams in Benton County, said her team closed 11 deals in March, and wrote 14 more contracts. She said her March numbers were virtually the same year-over-year. But comparing the full quarter, Dou said 2014 is much better.

FIRST QUARTER RESULTS
“Our January and February were so great this year that I have already done half the volume (pending and closing) of what I did in all of 2013.” Dou said. “Overall, 2014 is looking much better than 2013 for my business.”

Dou’s results are not indicative of the entire local market. Paul Bynum with MountData.com said the accumulated market report for the first three months of 2014, shows a total volume of $250 million, up 1% from a year ago. Agents sold 1,423 homes in the quarter, that was 35 less than sold in the same quarter last year.
The median sales price was $141,000 or $83 per square foot, rising between 1% and 2%, respectively, from a the prior year.

Bynum said it took 67 days on average for sellers to obtain a contract in the first quarter, and there were 7.2 months of worth of inventory on the market at the end of the March. He said the market is slightly tilted toward the buyers’ favor as a balanced market is typically 5-to 6-months of inventory.

Bynum reports new construction inventory is at 5.9 months up from last year’s 4.5-month reading. New construction has increased from 273 units last March to 393 in 2014. He said the existing inventory at 2,939 is down just a bit from last March’s 2,953.

HOME SALES
Benton County
2014: $157.41 million
2013: $159.38 million
2012: $131.53 million

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Washington County
2014: $93.07 million
2013: $89.25 million
2012: $71.62 million

MEDIAN SALES PRICES
Benton County
2014: $140,000
2013: $142,500
2012: $135,000

Washington County
2014: $145,350
2013: $139,000
2012: $129,250

Source: MountData.com

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