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May home sales up in Sebastian County, fall in Crawford County

story by Ryan Saylor
rsaylor@thecitywire.com

Crawford County posted its second consecutive month of declining home sales, while Sebastian County continues posting double digit improvements.

For the month of May, Crawford County posted $5.893 million in sales on 54 homes, a 1.03% drop from the previous May's total of 48 homes at $5.955 million. Sebastian County, on the other hand, saw 140 homes sold at a value of $17.003 million, a 10.26% increase from May 2013 when 108 homes were sold at a value of $15.421 million.

Randy Miller, executive broker at J.E. Jones Real Estate in Van Buren, said the biggest driver of numbers in both counties is jobs and what has hurt Van Buren is the loss of Allen Canning Company, which shut its Van Buren facility and transferred the jobs to Siloam Springs shortly before the company filed for bankruptcy protection.

"Unemployment hurts from the lowest level all the up to the top," Miller said.

With Crawford County's figures improving from April's 9.98% drop in sales and Sebastian County's 10% improvement instead of last month's nearly 26% improvement, he said the market is leveling itself out, meaning neither market should continue to see the highest of highs or the lowest of lows through the rest of the year.

"I don't think that you'll see a continued 10% (improvement in Sebastian County) each month. There's always a leveling we see in this market. We don't have big dips. It's always been gradual for us in this part of the country," Miller said. "I don't anticipate that it will be 10% for the next few months, but it would be exciting if that would happen."

That said, both markets are up so far in year-to-date totals, with Crawford County posting a 24.26% increase in sales over the same January to May period last year, while Sebastian County is up 8.22% during the same period.

He added that the primary driver of Sebastian County's numbers were residential developments at Chaffee Crossing, while Crawford County has continued seeing an influx of investors diving into the rental market. And Miller said it's starting to spread to the entire Fort Smith area.

"What I have seen in both counties are individuals who are downsizing and moving to a duplex, triplex or quadplex instead of a smaller house. It will be something that produces income plus provides them a nice place to live."

Miller said he is also seeing an increase in the number of single family homes that are being used as rental units, but he said the region's unemployment figures do not improve in the coming months, it could stunt growth in residential sales.

That said, he said the market is still a good one for someone looking to get into the market if they are able to secure financing.

"There are still good purchases for buyers if they can get financing for a house that is a repossession. There's still quite a few HUD and bank repos that are good buys in good neighborhoods. And lenders want to lend money, but it's just can individuals qualify?"

Home Sales Data (January - May)
• Crawford County
Unit Sales
2014: 230
2013: 184

Total Sales Volume
2014: $24.890 million
2013: $20.031 million

Median Sales Price
2014: $98,300
2013: $109,900

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• Sebastian County
Unit Sales
2014: 517
2013: 451

Total Sales Volume
2014: $65.729 million
2013: $60.734 million

Median Sales Price
2014: $110,500
2013: $111,750

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