Arkansas home sales up 12.4% through August

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 83 views 

Home sales in Arkansas’ four largest metro areas during the first eight months of 2013 totaled 13,916, up more than 12% compared to the 2012 period and at a level not seen since the robust housing market of 2007.

The almost 14,000 homes sold in the eight-month period of 2013 were pushed higher by a more than 21% gain in August sales, according to The City Wire’s Arkansas Home Sales Report.

The City Wire’s Arkansas Home Sales Report captures home sales data in the state’s 14 most populated counties within the state’s four largest metro areas — Central Arkansas, Fort Smith area, Jonesboro/Northeast Arkansas and Northwest Arkansas. The report, which records closed sales, accounts for between 70% and 75% of total Arkansas home sales. This report counts the number of sales closed between January and August.

In the four markets, the number of homes sold totaled 13,916, up 12.48% compared to the first eight months of 2012. The value of homes sold in the four markets between January and August totaled $2.35 billion, up 16.83% compared to the same period in 2012. The number of sales and total value of sales were up 13.78% and 27.19%, respectively, compared to the same period in 2011.

For the first eight months of 2013, the number of homes sold in central Arkansas are up 2.33%, up 9.18% in the Jonesboro area, up 17.14% in Northwest Arkansas, and up 6.73% in the Fort Smith area.

The average sales price of a home sold in the four markets during the first seven months of 2013 was $168,897, up 3.87% compared to the 2012 period, and up 11.79% compared to the 2011 period.

For the first eight months of the year, Benton County had a narrow hold on the top Arkansas county for home sales. The county, with a population of around 230,000, had 3,082 home sales between January and August. Pulaski County, with a population of around 390,000, posted 3,025 home sales in the same seven month period.

Home sales activity was up in all four markets during August. There were 951 homes sold in central Arkansas, up 21.92% compared to August 2012, and up 11.36% compared to August 2011.

August home sales totaled 763 in Northwest Arkansas, up 20.35% compared to August 2012, and up 26.74% compared to August 2011.

Jonesboro area home sales totaled 204, up 18.6% compared to August 2012 and up 1.49% compared to August 2011.

In the Fort Smith area, home sales totaled 195, up 23.42% compared to August 2012, and up 7.73% compared to August 2011.

The value of the sales during August were up 17.54% in central Arkansas, up 22.63% in Northwest Arkansas, up 28.4% in the Jonesboro area, and up 32.73% in the Fort Smith region.

Central Arkansas — Home sales
Jan.-Aug. 2013: 6,535
Jan.-Aug. 2012: 5,894
Jan.-Aug. 2011: 5,752

Fort Smith area — Home sales
Jan.-Aug. 2013: 1,157
Jan.-Aug. 2012: 1,084
Jan.-Aug. 2011: 1,167

Jonesboro area — Home sales
Jan.-Aug. 2013: 1,297
Jan.-Aug. 2012: 1,188
Jan.-Aug. 2011: 1,232

Northwest Arkansas — Home sales
Jan.-Aug. 2013: 4,927
Jan.-Aug. 2012: 4,206
Jan.-Aug. 2011: 4,080

The top five counties in terms of Jan.-Aug. 2013 home sales:
Benton — 3,082, up compared to 2,602 in 2012
Pulaski — 3,025, up compared to 2,795 in 2012
Washington — 1,845, up compared to 1,604 in 2012
Saline — 1,034, up compared to 894 in 2012
Craighead — 1,029, up compared to 925 in 2012

Link here for a PDF document of the August 2013 data.

Amanda Elrod, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker RPM in Bryant, believes an improving economy has pushed home sales higher throughout 2013.

“The economy in general is getting better,” she said. “More people have money to buy houses now.”

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that Arkansas employment has improved compared to the most recent high of 108,892 people out of work and looking for jobs in July 2011. In August there were 98,442 people looking for work in the Natural State, resulting in an unemployment rate of 7.4% during that month.

Elrod said anxiety over the economy kept people out of the housing market between 2008 through 2011. But that fear has subsided as unemployment rates have fallen. That increased confidence in the economy and pent up demand for homes stored up during the recession has brought more people to the housing market in 2012 and 2013, Elrod said.

She said rising interest rates this year have also brought more people to the market as some consumers are choosing to purchase homes before rates increase further.

According to the national average rate on a 30-year, fixed interest mortgage was 3.59% at the end of August 2012 – that average had increased to 4.51% at the end of August this year. At the first of January, the average rate on a 30-year, fixed interest mortgage was 3.34%.

In the Jonesboro area, Brenda Dacus with Fred Dacus Associates, said she is encouraged by the growth of median sales prices in the area. Dacus said she has seen increased sales in the $500,000 and $600,000 ranges and that movement has pulled up median prices.

Still, Dacus said she expected to see more sales of higher priced homes by August and is hopeful that increasing growth in the area will yield more sales in the near future.

“We've got more people moving in than out,” she said.

The home sales market is red hot in Northwest Arkansas.

“Our April sales rose 58% in volume over last year and our agents closed deals on 36% more homes compared to April 2012. It was our best April in a long, long time,” said George Faucette, CEO of the local Coldwell Banker franchise.

Harold Crye, CEO of Crye-Leike Realty, said his firm’s Northwest Arkansas business was up 58% last month with $37.4 million in total sales. His agents closed deals on 230 homes, up 36% from the same month last year. Together Crye-Leike and Coldwell Banker comprise a lion’s share of the total market.

Owner/Broker Kevin Clifton of Kevin Clifton Real Estate in Van Buren said there were a lot of factors at play resulting in high numbers of sales in both counties.

"With the construction on (Interstate 540), it has affected home sales," he said. "Many of those (buyers who work in Fort Smith) have chosen to buy homes closer to work. It has been a problem with homes in Alma and northern Crawford County."

And while the numbers have not been as impressive in Crawford County, Clifton said recent sales in the county have been driven by two other factors – low interest rates and the possible elimination of rural development loans.

Jeff Collins, an economist for The City Wire, said he sees the year-to-date numbers as a clear trend in which the numbers of homes sold and average prices are on the rise. August may have shown weaker growth compared to 2012 than other months in 2013, but pointed out it's hard to read too much into monthly numbers. Year-to-date comparisons, he said, reveal trends more accurately.

One thing Collins said to keep an eye on is how the government shutdown could impact Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans. Mortgages issued under that program are critical to sales across the nation in general and in rural states such as Arkansas in particular.