NWA home sales dip in April, prices rise

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 76 views 

Realtors across Northwest Arkansas have seen the busiest spring they can remember in several years despite a dip in closed sales during the month of April. Total sales volume averaged $79.204 million, down 2.29% from a year ago.

There were 463 sales in April in Benton and and Washington counties, as reported MountData.com. Unit sales were down 16.72% from the same month in 2011.

For the first four months of the year there were 1,706 total sales in the two counties, up 5.92% in Benton County and falling 6% in Washington County.

Agents blame the warm winter for the slight pullback in April. Vicki Briolat, agent with Crye-Leike in Bentonville, said the market is definitely stronger than a year ago, even if the April sales don’t concur.

“I am seeing multiple offers on properties for the first time in ages. I have gotten three offers in the past two days for listings and I am writing an offer for a buyer this week. I could not be any busier or happier after a rough year and a half,” Briolat said.

She said buyers are making offers, not just “kicking the tires,” and sellers who have contemplated a move up or down might want jump in because prices are rising.

MountData reports median home prices in the region ranged from $130,250 in Benton County to $150,500 in Washington County during the month of April. Prices jumped 8.5% in Benton County from a year ago, while escalating 21.3% in Washington County in the same time period.

The local franchise of Coldwell Banker reported a 13% increase in the firm’s April closings when compared to a year ago. Year-to-date the firm’s sales are up 23% according to president George Faucette.

Like Briolat, Faucette said April’s pending sales are tracking 50% higher than a year ago at his firm, the largest agency in Northwest Arkansas.

Faucette says prices are rising modestly through the first part of 2012, and Coldwell Banker’s listings are also higher year over year. He doesn’t anticipate higher home inventories having a big effect on pricing in the near term.

“Although the supply and demand balance will obviously change, all other factors affecting real estate pricing and activity are moving in a very positive manner,” Faucette said.

Home sales in Crawford and Sebastian counties during the first four months of 2012 total 482, down 3.2% compared to the 2011 period.

April was not a good month for home sales in the two counties. Crawford County had 44 homes sold during April, down from 55 in April 2011, according to the MountData info. Sebastian County had 87 homes sold, down from 107 in April 2011.

For the first quarter of 2012, home sales in Crawford and Sebastian counties totaled 343, ahead of the 336 in the 2011 period.

Kevin King, principal with Weichert Realtors-King Realty in Fort Smith, believes the number of homes sold in Fort Smith is up, “but just barely.

“I think a lot of that could be lower sales there (out in the county),” King explained.

He also said his group is seeing more people downsizing homes and moving back into the Fort Smith Public School Districts.

“That’s not a big number, but we do see more of that,” he said.

King, who predicts that 2012 home sales will be “moderately better” compared to 2011, said his “rental business has gone up … and rental rates are going up because of that better demand.”

Part of the higher rental demand is from a mortgage-eligibility requirement to have higher credit scores.

The value of homes sold in Crawford County during the first four months of 2012 is $19.807 million, up compared to the $17.319 million during the same period of 2011.

The value of homes sold in Sebastian County during the first four months of 2012 is $38.718 million, down compared to the $42.138 million during the same period of 2011.