Home sales in Crawford County more than doubled in volume in February compared to the same month last year, while Sebastian County totals fell nearly a quarter percent.
According to real estate agent Vickie Davis with Sagely & Edwards Realtors in Fort Smith, the reason for Crawford County's strong numbers have to do with the renewal of the Farm Bill, which continued the Rural Development Loan program.
"When they apply for a loan, they don't have to have the down payment," she said in explaining the loan program. "The down payment can be worked in. They're able to just get a better deal as far as financing."
She said that is why Crawford County's sales volume of $4.458 million on 36 homes last month was 126.01% larger than in February of last year, which only saw sales of $1.972 million on 23 homes.
In Sebastian County, sales last month total $9.981 million on 77 homes, while February 2013 saw $12.676 million on 91 homes, a 21.26% drop.
Numbers for the first two months of the year show Crawford County continuing its strong showing, while sales in Sebastian County are flat.
For January and February, home sales in Sebastian County were $19.159 million from 151 home sold, only increasing 0.72% from the same period last year, where 143 homes were sold on volume of $19.022 million.
North of the river, Crawford County clocked a 78.25% increase in sales volume during the first part of this year — $8.348 million on 74 homes sold in 2014 versus $4.683 million on 50 homes sold during the same period in 2013.
Davis said home sales in Sebastian County should increase in the next few months, while Crawford County's numbers may slow down slightly.
"I think they'll fade just a tiny bit (in Crawford County)," she said. "I don't think it will be a bottom out situation, but they'll come down just a little bit because everybody was trying to beat that (deadline) to receive the (Rural Development Loan) financing."
She said individuals in the real estate and the finance business should expect sales to increase as temperatures warm.
"Spring and Summer are really good times, as far as home sales. It’s because the weather is good and people are trying to get settled in before the school year starts. People don't like to move their kids in the middle of the school year."
While economic recovery and job growth have been happening in Fort Smith, Davis said foreclosure activity has and will continue to be a drag on the housing market.
"A lot of people are upside down right now and letting the homes go back to the bank," she explained, adding that while some people expect to get steals when purchasing foreclosed homes, it is not often the case.
"A lot of times you don't get the good price you'll think you'll get. Yes, they're reduced, but a lot of times when you get foreclosed homes you're just purchasing it (as is). If you're buying from someone, the person will fix the repairs. When you get a foreclosed home, you have to repair yourself. …If you look around, it's not as good a deal as you think. Usually, you're going to have to go in and do a lot of extra work."
As more development continues to pop across the region, bringing jobs with it, she said it is likely that many of the homes sold in the region would be newer homes while older homes are likely to sit on the market long.
"You have people moving in for these jobs and you have people wanting to move into the new subdivisions for the matter of resale. If you have a development they're still building in, they'll have good resale. …New homes are still going pretty good. I'm having a harder time selling the older ones. The new ones seem to sell easier."
Home Sales Data
(January – February)
• Crawford County
Total Sales Volume
2014: $8.348 million
2013: $4.683 million
Median Sales Price
• Sebastian County
Total Sales Volume
2014: $19.159 million
2013: $19.022 million
Median Sales Price