story by Kim Souza
September generally marks a time when real estate sales begin to taper down, but local agents and lenders in the Fort Smith metro area say that wasn’t case this year.
MountData.com reports local agents sold 98 homes in Sebastian County last month, up nearly 14% from the same period in 2011. Crawford County reported sales flat with a year ago at 45 property closings during the month of September.
Keith Meador, a veteran agent with King Weichert Realty in Fort Smith, said the busier pace was a welcome site after a tepid spring and summer selling season. He said prices continue to move higher which is better for sellers and enough impotence to get buyers back into the market shopping.
“I am working with young buyers, some folks who recently moved into Fort Smith, a few investors and some homeowners wanting bigger houses for growing families. The demand is really spread between several groups,” Meador said.
Total sales volume in September was $15.457 million, up 12.76% from a year ago.
Agents in the Fort Smith market have said for several months they have seen more investors buying rental property and a few deals for a quick turnaround.
Analyst Paul Bynum with MountData.com says the rising home values are a morale booster for consumer confidence in general.
Median home prices in the Fort Smith market rose 14% last month to $145,000. This compared to $127,000 and $119,000 in the past two consecutive years.
In Crawford County, median home prices were $113,000, up 16.95% from a year ago. These higher home values helped to push sales volume up 14.75% from a year ago, even though the number of units sold was basically flat.
“I am very encouraged by the uptick in activity we have seen over the past four to six weeks, at a time when the market usually slows. This year got off to a slower start and it would be nice to keep this momentum going for a while,” Meador said.
Through the first nine months of the year agents sold 831 homes in Sebastian County, with a total value of $114.653 million. Unit sales are down about 6.7% while the total sales value fell 2.3% from the same period in 2011.
In Crawford County agents have 397 homes this year, nearly even with 400 recorded in 2011 and 2010. Sales volume equaled $47.206 million through September, up from $44.651 million in the year-ago period, according to MountData.com
Arvest banker Maria Lau, senior vice president of mortgage lending in the Fort Smith market, said new purchase mortgage applications have picked up in recent weeks and the region is on pace with last year.
“Roughly 48% of our mortgage applications are for new purchase, the balance is refinance activity,” Lau said. “The 30-year fixed rate is 3.375% right now and the 15-year rate is 2.625%.”
Arvest Mortgage said Tuesday (Oct. 16) that the firm had reached the $2 billion milestone for the first-time in its history.
Lau said because Arvest retains the servicing rights for the mortgages it originates, consumers feel they have a direct connection with a local face, not always possible with the largest mortgage lenders.
“We have really seen the local servicing pay-off when there are weather-related claims and all the homeowner has to do is see their banker who can sign-off of a claim check, and not have to mail it across country for a signature,” Lau said.
Bynum says positive moves in the consumer confidence ratings last month are being felt in the residential real estate market which is a better sign for overall economy heading into the general elections Nov. 6.
Home Sales (January through September)
2012: 831 units, $118.250 million
2011: 891 units, $117.367 million
2010: 957 units, $128.727 million
2012: 397 units, $47.206 million
2011: 400 units, $44.651 million
2010: 400 units, $47.165 milllion
Median Home Price (January through September)