Fort Smith area home sales inch higher in May, sales up for the year

by The City Wire staff (info@thecitywire.com) 32 views 

Agents across Sebastian County have sold 557 homes through the first five months of 2015, outpacing 2014 by 6.7%, according to MountData.com. But the real story in the this region continues to be rising prices in an area that traditionally offers modest, if any annual increases.

Sales volume in Sebastian County rose to $78.143 million through May, an increase of 18.3% from a year ago. The sale of two $1 million homes in April is partially responsible for the higher yearly volume. But in May the median home price in Sebastian County rose to $117,200, a gain of 17.2% from the same month last year.

Kevin King, a broker with Weichert King Realtors in Fort Smith, said the rising prices are likely attributed to an active new home market that is finding the cost to build is more expensive than a year ago as lumber and other raw materials have moved up in price.

“Homeowners who stayed put during the recession have also upgraded their properties in recent years with granite and wood flooring that have raised those property values as well,” King said. 

He cautioned that while the median home price is higher this year, the bulk of the activity is centered around new construction and a few pockets around Fort Smith where commercial amenities are beginning to fill in.

King said some buyers are attracted to the Fort Chaffee area and the new construction there because jobs are moving in and so is commercial retail. He said the new Walmart Neighborhood Market going in on south U.S. Highway 71 will also be a nice amenity to buyers in the new Park Meadows subdivision where homes are prices between $180,000 and $230,000.

Overall, King said the Fort Smith Metro area market is growing at a modest pace over last year which is expected to continue with better macro economics and local expansion efforts.

Fort Smith somewhat resembles the national consensus as a mature city with a slow but steady growing economy.

“Consumers are exhibiting caution, and want to be on more stable financial footing before purchasing a home,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “On the bright side, the HMI component measuring future sales expectations has been tracking upward all year, mortgage rates remain low, and house prices are affordable. These factors should spur the release of pent-up demand moving forward.”

Homebuilder sentiment is also high across the country based on the pent-up demand from cost-conscious and cautious consumers. Real estate developer and Arkansas Sen. Jake Files, R-Fort Smith, said building costs have risen consistently over the past four or five years but builders were hesitant to raise prices in the wake of stagnant wages. 

“I suspect what we have now is some cost inflation from the past few years finally catching up,” Files told The City Wire.

CRAWFORD COUNTY
This smaller Crawford County area reported flat home sales through the first five months of this year for units, but like Fort Smith saw its sales volume rise because of higher home prices. Total sales volume in Crawford County rose 6.7% this year over last despite one less home sold. The median sales price through May rose more than 10% to $107,500.

Crawford County’s median home price through May was 10% less expensive than in neighboring Fort Smith. North in Washington County median home prices are 48% more costly at $150,975. 

In May alone, the median home price rose to $115,944, a gain of 7.2% from a year ago. On a square-foot basis, the median price in May topped out at $71.70, a high so far for this year, according to MountData.com.

Sales volume rose 19.4% to $7.214 million in May with units sales almost flat against a year ago. More new home sales in Crawford County are also helping push the median home price upward. 

AREA HOME SALES
CRAWFORD COUNTY

Unit Sales (Jan.-May)
2015: 234
2014: 235
2013: 184

Sales Volume (Jan.-May)
2015: $27.13 million
2014: $25.403 million
2013: $20.03 million

Median Price (Jan.-May)
2015: $115,944
2014: $108,099
2013: $109,900

SEBASTIAN COUNTY
Unit Sales (Jan.-May)
2015: 557
2014: 522
2013: 451

Sales Volume (Jan.-May)
2015: $78.143 million
2014: $66.226 million
2013: $60.733 million

Median Price (Jan.-May)
2015: $117,250
2014: $111,000
2013: $111,750

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