There is little debate that the boom of recent years has faded, leaving in its wake slower construction and probably a few career shifts.
In Benton County, there were 5,557 homes sold in 2005 and 4,856 in 2006, a decrease of 12.6 percent, according to the Arkansas Realtors Association’s Housing Market Report. Through September 2007, only 3,240 homes have sold and the fourth quarter is typically slow for homebuyers.
In Washington County, 3,163 units were sold in 2005 versus 2,904 in 2006, a decrease of 8.2 percent, according to the ARA. Through September of this year, 2,101 homes were sold.
But despite turbulence and resulting lower sales numbers, several of the area’s top-producing real estate agents said the situation in the region is more favorable than the doom and gloom scenarios proffered by armchair market analysts.
Some newcomers to the sales side of the industry have since chosen to pursue other professions, leaving the real estate firms that for a time provided them with a lucrative and relatively easy gig, said Gary Griffin, owner and principal broker of Griffin Company Realtors.
“People started looking at real estate sales as a another way to cash in on the boom,” he said. “Everyone wanted to become a Realtor and unfortunately, too many got into the business.”
There has been some turnover among agents at Griffin Co. Some of this is just the normal amount to be expected in nearly any market while some could be attributed to the correction, Griffin said.
An equal number of agents have come onboard with Griffin as have left, leaving the firm more or less where it was the whole time.
Many of the newbie agents never experienced the type of market that Northwest Arkansas was for years, and when things began to slow down, many of them didn’t have the skill sets to survive, said Jan Oliphant, an agent with Coldwell Banker Faucette Real Estate in Springdale.
“I’ve been in business when you had to get out and hustle,” she said.
Nowadays, “you have to work a little harder and a lot smarter. I don’t think we have a negative market, but due to the number of homes on the market, sellers have to price it right and make sure it’s the most appealing home in that price range,” she said.
That includes staging their homes to make them look their best and helping sellers determine the right asking price.
Oliphant said agents who work for more established firms are often more thoroughly trained and they have greater support.
Meza Harris, with Lindsey & Associates, said this has been her most challenging year yet. She’s working harder than ever. Harris hasn’t sold as much this year, but that would seem to be more of an indication of the market correction than anything else, she said. She has three assistants and said she works all the time.
“You’ve got to just keep on keeping on and do the best you can and you will be rewarded for it,” she said.
The area’s residential real estate market isn’t so much in a decline as it is just a return to normalcy, Oliphant said. Nonetheless, she had a better year in 2006 than in 2005.
Her 2006 sales volume was 33 percent higher than the year before, according to the Business Journal’s annual list of top grossing real estate agents.