Value of Fort Smith area home sales rise in first half of 2014

story by Ryan Saylor
rsaylor@thecitywire.com

Editor’s note: This story is a component of The Compass Report. The quarterly Compass Report is managed by The City Wire. Supporting sponsors of The Compass Report are Cox Communications and the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Crawford County's home sales may have fallen off in May, but the northern neighbor to Fort Smith more than made up for a disappointing May with its June sales report. The county saw $9.089 million in sales on 69 homes during June, a 182.84% spoke from June 2013's total of 36 homes sold for $3.213 million.

Sebastian County also posted gains, though the numbers were not anywhere near triple-digit growth. Sebastian County posted $19.068 million in sales on 126 homes last month, an 11.12% improvement over June 2013, when 119 homes were sold in the county at a value of $17.16 million.

For the first six months of the year, Crawford County has increased sales volume of 46.55% from $23.244 million during the first six months of 2013 to $34.064 million during the same period this year.

Sebastian County posted a 9.09% gain from $77.894 million during the first half of 2013 to $84.977 million during the same period in 2014.

Vickie Davis, an agent Sagely & Edwards Realtors in Fort Smith, cautioned against reading too much into the meteoric increase in sales volume for Crawford County last month or even for the first part of this year. She said the likely culprit for the spike in home sales in the county was a mix of several homes on large tracts of land being sold coupled with more speculation that Rural Development loans will come to an end in Van Buren, the county seat and its largest city.

"A lot of people are trying to get things cleared out before that (Rural Development) stuff happens," she said.

Even though the Rural Development Loan Program was funded through the most recent Farm Bill passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in February of this year, Davis said loan officers have notified her and other realtors working in Van Buren that the city would become ineligible on Oct. 1.

While the most recent Farm Bill raised the population limits for eligible cities to 35,000 people, the loan program's guidelines state that if a city is contiguous to a metropolitan statistical area — as is the case with Van Buren and Fort Smith, though the two are separated by the Arkansas River — those cities could be removed from the program.

While this will not impact the county's other cities like Alma, Cedarville or Mulberry, it will impact sales in Van Buren since requirements for Rural Development loans are not as strict as traditional fixed-rate loans.

Davis said anyone wanting to secure a home using the Rural Development option in Van Buren should act fast.

"If you're really interested in purchasing something right now, you need to get with it in the next three weeks," she said, adding that getting in now is necessary to give a bank time to get the loan fully processed. She said processing a loan only takes an average of 30 days, though she always advises clients to give it six to eight weeks.

As for the large properties Davis said could be a part of the increase in values, she cited one home on a large acreage that sold for more than $1 million, as well as another home on property that sold together for $760,000.

"All you need is a few things like that to bump it up," she said.

The average sale price for the county appears to reflect the higher priced homes sold last month, as June 2014 showed an average sale price of $131,720 compared to $89,263 in June 2013. The total represents a 47.56% increase from the same month last year.

Sebastian County's average sale price increased 4.95% from $144,202 in June 2013 to $151,336 last month.

Home Sales Data (January - June)
• Crawford County
Unit Sales
2014: 300
2013: 220

Total Sales Volume
2014: $34.064 million
2013: $23.244 million

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Median Sales Price
2014: $104,000
2013: $105,000

• Sebastian County
Unit Sales
2014: 645
2013: 570

Total Sales Volume
2014: $84.977 million
2013: $77.894 million

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

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