Arkansas real estate agents were busy in March. Home sales in Arkansas’ four largest markets rose an impressive 15.33% in March after being up 2.4% in February and down more than 2% in January. For the first quarter of the year, home sales in the four markets are up a healthy 7.83%.
First quarter home sales totaled 4,639, up from 4,302 in the same period of 2014, and up 11.09% compared to the same period in 2013. For the first quarter, home sales are up 5.33% in central Arkansas, up 7.91% in the Fort Smith metro, up 8.28% in the Jonesboro metro and up 11.22% in Northwest Arkansas.
The total value of first quarter home sales in the four markets was $768.563 million, up 16.34% compared to the same period in 2014 and up 15.76% compared to the 2013 period.
The City Wire’s Arkansas Home Sales Report captures home sales data in the state’s 14 most populated counties within its four largest metro areas — Central Arkansas, the 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.
Helping to boost the sales value more than 16% in the quarter is an uptick in average sales price. The average price for homes in the four markets was $165,674 in the first quarter, up 7.89% compared to the first three months of 2014, and up 4.21% compared to the same period in 2013.
The only downside to the March report was days on market. The average days on market during the first quarter was 105.89, up slightly from the 105.21 in the same period of 2014, and up from 104.91 in the same period of 2013.
There were 21,447 homes sold in Arkansas’ four largest markets in 2014, up 3.8% over 2013 and up 17.33% over 2012. The total value of home sold in the four markets during 2014 was $3.554 billion, up 3.24% over 2013 and up 18.97% compared to 2012. Gains in the number of homes sold in 2014 certainly varied by market. Sales totaled 9,904 in central Arkansas, up 2.32%. In the Fort Smith region, which has an economy not yet on stable footing, home sales were up a surprising 14.33% for the year.
March home sales in the four markets totaled 1,918, up 15.33% compared to March 2014, and up 12.16% compared to March 2013. The average price per home in the four markets during March was $169,856, up 7.3% compared to March 2014, and up 4.31% compared to March 2013. The total value of sales in the four markets during March was $325.783 million, up 23.76% compared to March 2014 and up 17% compared to March 2013.
There were 882 homes sold in central Arkansas, up 16.51% compared to March 2014, and up 9.7% compared to March 2013.
March home sales totaled 667 in Northwest Arkansas, up 14.02% compared to March 2014, and up 7.75% compared to March 2013.
Jonesboro area home sales totaled 197, up 24.68% compared to March 2014 and up 34.01% compared to March 2013.
In the Fort Smith area, home sales totaled 172, up 5.52% compared to March 2014, and up 22.86% compared to March 2013.
Sales value gains were also impressive in all four markets. The total value of the sales during March were up 22..75% in central Arkansas, up 23.59% in Northwest Arkansas, up 40.22% in the Jonesboro area, and up 16.45% in the Fort Smith region.
THE REGIONAL PICTURE: January-March 2015
Central Arkansas — Home sales
Jan.-March 2015: 2,136
Jan.-March 2014: 2,028
Jan.-March 2013: 1,991
Fort Smith area — Home sales
Jan.-March 2015: 423
Jan.-March 2014: 392
Jan.-March 2013: 333
Jonesboro area — Home sales
Jan.-March 2015: 484
Jan.-March 2014: 447
Jan.-March 2013: 392
Northwest Arkansas — Home sales
Jan.-March 2015: 1,596
Jan.-March 2014: 1,435
Jan.-March 2013: 1,460
The top five counties in terms of January-March 2015 home sales:
Benton — 976, up compared to 903 in January-March 2014
Pulaski — 967, up compared to 919 in January-March 2014
Washington — 620, up compared to 532 in January-March 2014
Craighead — 395, up compared to 346 in January-March 2014
Saline — 353, up compared to 345 in January-March 2014
Link here for a PDF document of the March 2015 data.
SIGN OF ECONOMIC RECOVERY
“What a month! Everything looks really good from the units to the prices,” said Kathy Deck, director of the Center for Economic Research at the University of Arkansas.
Deck said the improved housing market report for March is indicative of the strength of Arkansas’ ongoing economic recovery – a recovery that began in 2009 but has only recently gained noticeable momentum.
One of the signs that the economy is improving, she said, is that unemployment in the state has improved. According to the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services, the unemployment rate in Arkansas improved to 5.6% from 6.4% a year ago. In real numbers, that means 1.26 million Arkansans have jobs in March 2015 compared to 1.21 million workers a year ago.
Deck said one thing to watch is mortgage rates, which have stayed low for a few years because of the Federal Reserve’s policy of keeping rates low for the purpose of strengthening the economy. If the Fed determines the economy is strong enough to stand on its own, then it may raise short term interest rates and those could cause mortgage rates to increase as a result.
According to Mortgage-X, the average interest rate on a 30-year mortgage at the first of May was 3.5%. Of the mortgage bankers polled around the nation by that site, 32.1% believe mortgage rates will remain unchanged over the next 90 days, while 42.9% believe rates will rise slightly over the next three months.
Deck said one danger about the current recovery that could impact sales in the future is a sense the recovery is tenuous. Wages have not increased significantly and that worries some workers.