First quarter home sales up almost 3% in Arkansas’ largest markets

Home sales in Arkansas four largest metro areas during the first quarter of 2014 are up almost 3% compared to the same period of 2013, but the average per home sales price is down more than 3% and the total value of homes sold in those markets is also down for the quarter.

The Fort Smith region was the only one of Arkansas’ four largest metro areas to post a gain in home sales and total sales amount during March.

According to The City Wire’s Arkansas Home Sales Report, there were 4,229 homes sold in the four markets for the first three months of 2014, up 2.97% compared to the 2013 quarter, and up 12.18% compared to the same quarter in 2012.

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 is sponsored by Fort Smith-based Weather Barr.

Average home prices in the four markets for the quarter was $153,959, down from the $159,286 during the same quarter in 2013, and just above the $153,425. The value of the homes sold in the four markets during the quarter totaled $651.091 million, down 0.47% compared to the same quarter in 2013, but up 12.57% compared to the 2012 quarter.

MARCH NUMBERS
March home sales totaled 1,625, down 3.62% in the four markets. The average price per home in the four markets was $158,996, down 2.64% compared to March 2013, but up 3.36% compared to March 2012.

There were 735 homes sold in central Arkansas, down 5.04% compared to March 2013, and up 9.7% compared to March 2012.

March home sales totaled 576 in Northwest Arkansas, down 6.8% compared to March 2013, and up 5.49% compared to March 2012.

Jonesboro area home sales totaled 153, down 0.65% compared to March 2013 and down 12.07% compared to March 2012.

In the Fort Smith area, home sales totaled 161, up an impressive 15% compared to March 2013, and up 12.59% compared to March 2012.

The value of the sales during March were down 6.23% in central Arkansas, down 5.3% in Northwest Arkansas, down 23.13% in the Jonesboro area, and up 9.02% in the Fort Smith region.

THE REGIONAL PICTURE: 2014
Central Arkansas — Home sales
Jan.-March 2014: 1,975
Jan.-March 2013: 1,926
Jan.-March 2012: 1,769

Fort Smith area — Home sales
Jan.-March 2014: 388
Jan.-March 2013: 333
Jan.-March 2012: 346

Jonesboro area — Home sales
Jan.-March 2014: 443
Jan.-March 2013: 390
Jan.-March 2012: 392

Northwest Arkansas — Home sales
Jan.-March 2014: 1,423
Jan.-March 2013: 1,458
Jan.-March 2012: 1,263

The top five counties in terms of Jan.-March 2014 home sales:
Benton — 896, down compared to 912 in 2013
Pulaski — 888, up compared to 869 in 2013
Washington — 527, down compared to 546 in 2013
Craighead — 346, up compared to 305 in 2013
Saline — 337, up compared to 305 in 2013

Link here for a PDF document of the March 2014 data.

‘LIFE IS GOOD’
Jennifer Zunino, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Rector Phillips Morse in Maumelle, said she has noticed stricter credit requirements are preventing many first-time home buyers from entering the market. The increase in sales in her area is largely from repeat buyers.

“Second-time buyers are happening right now. ... We're not seeing many first-time buyers,” she said, adding that lower priced homes in Pulaski County aren't moving as fast as those priced in the $200,000 to $300,000 range. “People are upgrading.”

She said prices have stabilized for many to the point that those home owners who owed more money on their homes than they were worth a few years ago are discovering they have equity in their houses. Home owners with equity, then, are more likely to sell their houses and “upgrade” than those who do not.

Sheryln Blackwell of Fred Dacus Associates in Jonesboro (JonesboroRealEstate.com) said her market has clearly recovered from the downturn of a few years ago.

“Three closings today,” she said on Wednesday. “Life is good.”

She said the bulk of the buyers she works with are repeat customers who are “moving on up” by going to larger homes. However, she said her office has no shortage of first time buyers, adding there are more credit issues than there used to be and that is why developing good relationships with lenders so prospective buyers have options is essential in today's market.

“I'll find a way to get them financed,” Blackwell said.

‘DEMAND IS STILL GOOD’
The City Wire Economist Jeff Collins said there's a reason Realtors are optimistic about the current market.

“I think that what you see is a recovered and stabilized housing market,” he said, adding that the market is not undergoing a record-setting pace, but conditions have definitely improved.

“The volumes are solid,” he said. “Not spectacular, but solid. … Demand is still good.”

He noted that March numbers are down, but said that can be a function of many things including ice and snow as a result of an unusually cold winter in Arkansas. A good number of March closings are the result of contracts entered into during February and January – months that featured ice, snow and frigid temperatures.

Collins said average prices are trending downward, but that comes as no surprise. He said interest rates are going up but incomes have remained fairly unchanged. As upticks in interest rates lead to higher monthly payments, Collins said there's not much people can do but buy less expensive homes than they would have when rates were lower – that same monthly payment won't go as far now as it did even a few months ago.

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.

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“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.

INVESTMENT PUSH
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. The one they bought was on the market just two days and it sold for almost full asking pricing, Long added.

According to Principal Broker/Owner Pat Satterfield of Pat Satterfield Real Estate in Alma, one of the biggest drivers for the Fort Smith area market is the rural development loans that were renewed as part of a recently-passed farm bill. She also said the real estate market is being helped by investors looking for a better return on their money.

"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.”

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Home Sales

Is it really true that home sales in the Fort Smith area are below home sales in Jonesboro?

Jack Was Right

Jonesboro appears to be ahead of Fort Smith in growth while spending less than half of what the so called Fort Smith Leadership is spending. How do they do it?

All the extra charges slipped in on utilities

are taking their toll on Ft Smithians purchasing power. I am remembering when then City Director Gary Campbell snidely remarked to the effect, 'We never said we were keeping everything the same after it was discovered the city was cutting out paying to move utilities after voters here renewed the 1% street tax assuming it was still the same deal as before.' This in effect gave them even more than before since the utility will end up bearing the expense which can be simply added to our bills! This classic fudge freed up money for somewhere else..I wonder where.