Fort Smith area home sales up for the year

story by Ryan Saylor
rsaylor@thecitywire.com

Crawford County posted its first drop in real estate sales for the year, while Sebastian County posted its largest increase so far for the year. But according to one real estate agent, observers and analysts should not read too much into a single month's real estate sales.

For the month of April, Crawford County posted only $4.4629 million in sales on 44 homes, a 9.98% drop from the previous April's total of 50 homes at $5.142 million. Sebastian County, on the other hand, saw 120 homes sold at $14.158 million, posting a 25.76% increase over April 2013's sales of 96 homes for $11.258 million.

Kevin King, principal broker and owner of Weichert Realtors King Realty Group in Fort Smith, said analyzing a single month's numbers only tells a small part of the real estate story and said a review of a full quarter or a full year's numbers would give more insight into what was happening in the market.

For the first four months of 2014, Crawford County posted a 34.96% increase in sales over the same period in 2013, with 176 homes sold for $18.997 million in volume versus last year's sales of 136 homes for only $14.076 million. The same period saw Sebastian County with 376 homes sold at $48.610 million, a 7.28% increase over 2013's sale of 343 homes at $45.313 million in volume.

When it comes to the increase for both counties, King said it could be attributed to different factors. In the case of Crawford County, the driving force behind its growth continues to be the USDA's Rural Development Loan Program, which was at risk of expiring before Congress ultimately passed a Farm Bill that secured additional longer-term funding for the program.

He said rural development loans often drive people to Crawford County instead of rural parts of Sebastian County.

"For whatever reason, Van Buren is their first choice to do that RD loan," he said. "It's the next biggest city they can live in and use that rural development loan."

In addition to the rural development loans driving traffic in Crawford County, King said another factor in improving Sebastian County's sales could be the shift in seasons.

"The only thing I can think of from our perspective is we were slowed down the early part of the year because of the weather. There were several days where we couldn't even show."

With the weather improved, Sebastian County's numbers are on the rise.

As far as what types of homes are selling, King said the market has seen a large number of investors.

"About a third of our traffic is attributed to investors buying the lower-end housing," he said, adding that difficulty for individuals seeking mortgages is helping to drive more investors to gobble up available inventory.

"In a market where it's hard to get approved and rentals are in high demand, it helps (to have investors will to purchase)."

Even so, King said the market is still unbalanced with a lot of sellers, but very few buyers. But he said that should begin to change as the year advances.

"I think we're still a bit unbalanced with too much inventory and not enough buyers, but as we get more job announcements, I think that will help. The more balanced the market gets as far as buyers and sellers, it will help."

Home Sales Data (January - April)
• Crawford County
Unit Sales
2014: 176
2013: 136

Total Sales Volume
2014: $18.997 million
2013: $14.076 million

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Median Sales Price
2014: $91,800
2013: $101,900

• Sebastian County
Unit Sales
2014: 376
2013: 343

Total Sales Volume
2014: $48.611 million
2013: $45.313 million

Median Sales Price
2014: $116,500
2013: $109,900

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