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First quarter home sales up in Crawford, Sebastian counties

story by Ryan Saylor
rsaylor@thecitywire.com

First quarter home sales in the Fort Smith region showed mixed results, with Crawford County far outpacing Sebastian County during the first three months of the year.

From January 1 to March 31, Crawford County posted a 60.82% increase in sales volume over the same period in 2013, with $14.368 million in sales for the first three months of the year versus $8.934 million during the first quarter last year.

In Sebastian County, sales only increased by 1.17% during the period, rising from $34.054 million in 2013 to $34.453 million in 2014.

According to Principal Broker/Owner Pat Satterfield of Pat Satterfield Real Estate in Alma, one of the biggest drivers for Crawford County's real estate market is the rural development loans that were renewed as part of a recently-passed farm bill. Renewal of the rural development loans had been in limbo for more than a year as Congress passed temporary measures while failing to find middle ground on permanent legislation. That changed with the passage of the long-awaited renewal of the Farm Bill in February.

She said the spike in sales started as far back as the Fall of last year.

"We haven't slowed down since October," she said. "Forget the holidays, the bad weather."

The numbers appear to reflect that, even when the March numbers are broken out on their own, showing an increase of 41.62% in sales volume for Crawford County compared to March 2013, while Sebastian County showed a decline in sales volume of 0.2%.

Satterfield said even though the Farm Bill renewed, the market has stayed brisk in Crawford County for a variety of reasons. Among the most popular is the relatively cheap entry into the rental market, which she said has people investing their savings for better returns.

"They can't get anything on their invested money," she said. "So a lot of people are investing in real estate. I'm seeing that more than anything. They'll have that money in a C.D. and spend it on real estate where they get more on their money. A lot of that's going on over here."

Another driving factor in the Crawford County market, especially in the Alma and Mountainburg areas, is the area's proximity to the Fort Smith and Northwest Arkansas regions, Satterfield said.

"Another thing, I think, is we have a lot of people that will split their time between Northwest Arkansas — maybe they're employed up there and the other half of their family (a spouse) is (employed) in Fort Smith. We're just a good halfway, in between, especially now with the road being a terrible nightmare to get to Fort smith. You can get to Fayetteville about as fast as you can get to the other side of Fort Smith."

As for whether Crawford County can keep up the momentum, Satterfield said it was likely, though she said it would level off somewhat.

"I don't see a downward turn at all. It's going to be a steady thing going on," she said, adding that it will likely be June before the market slows down much.

Home Sales Data (January - March)
• Crawford County
Unit Sales
2014: 132
2013: 86

Total Sales Volume
2014: $14.368 million
2013: $8.934 million

Median Sales Price
2014: $98,300
2013: $96,000

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• Sebastian County
Unit Sales
2014: 256
2013: 247

Total Sales Volume
2014: $34.453 million
2013: $34.054 million

Median Sales Price
2014: $115,000
2013: $113,700

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