Home sales in Crawford and Sebastian counties are up 9% for the first seven months of the year, with the value of the sales up more than 15%. The sales have generated more than $160 million in the two counties between January and July.
There were 134 homes sold in July in Sebastian County, valued at $19.277 million, relatively flat compared to 136 home sales a year ago with volume of $18.615 million, according to MountData.com
In Fort Smith, agents sold 87 homes with an average price of $141,000 last month, according to Jan Dyer, president of the Fort Smith Realtors Association. Dyer said the local market was softer compared to 93 sales a year ago, when the average sales price was $148,600.
Dyer said the July numbers continue to support what is turning out to be a good year for local agents in the region. She expects the market will sustain a 3% overall increase in prices and sales in 2015.
MountData.com reports agents have sold 839 homes in Sebastian County through July, which are worth more than $120.547 million. These 2015 market sales are up 9% for units, while total volume rose 15.8% over the same period in 2014.
“It’s been a strong and steady year for our local market. Just last month there was more evidence of investor activity with four homes selling under $20,000. These are obvious investor properties. But we are also seeing a fair number of higher priced home sales, the highest being $418,000,” Dyer said.
She said prices have inched up in recent years, particularly in Fort Smith. She said some of the new home building has slowed which is helping keep inventory levels at a manageable level and in turn helping support existing home prices. Through July, the median home price in Sebastian County was $119,500, or $70.60 per square foot. This is compared to $114,900, or $68.20 per square foot during the same period last year.
Dyer said higher prices are good for sellers. That and the potential for rising interest rates as the Federal Open Market Committee has hinted it will raise rates come September is perhaps enough to get some potential buyers off the fence.
“I have been working with a number of first time buyers who just decided to pull the trigger on a chance rates would start to rise in the next few months. We have become spoiled with these insanely low interest rates of the past three years and it’s worked on the buyer consciousness. Once the Fed actually moves to raise rates, we’ll have to see what happens,” Dyer said.
She said there are those who don’t want to roll the dice. Chances are rates won’t go up drastically, but most people agree it feels better to buy when you think you are getting the best deal. Dyer said rising rates could keep a few people out of the market, but generally speaking, folks who can qualify now will be able to qualify when rates edge higher. Their payment may be more, or they may have to settle for a home with a few less amenities, she said.
Rodney Shepard, market president for Arvest Bank, recently told The City Wire that the bank’s mortgage loans have grown this year thanks to more new buyers taking the plunge. He said the new medical school and other developments near Fort Chaffee and in downtown is fostering stronger confidence around Fort Smith.
Dyer said at least two large multifamily projects have been approved near Chaffee Crossing to add to the city’s rentable housing for professionals. She said growth at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith also helps support the residential sector.
“For too long our young people have moved out of Fort Smith, because there was not professional jobs, or night live here to suit them. With the growing entertainment choices in downtown and expansion of the local medical sector and UAFS we are making a little progress,” Dyer said.
Outside Fort Smith, Dyer said other pockets that continue to grow are Greenwood, Barling and Lavaca.
Home sales in Crawford County through July totaled 342, worth an estimated $40.334 million. In July, there were 56 sales valued at $6.419 million, also flat compared to 54 sales worth $6.552 million in July 2014, according to MountData.com.
Home prices in Crawford County trade at a discount to homes in neighboring Sebastian County. The median home price in Crawford County through July was $112,000, nearly $8,000 less than in Sebastian County and up to 15% cheaper than in Fort Smith.
Homes selling in Crawford County this year sat on the market a total of 91 days, two weeks less than in Sebastian County and three days more than in neighboring Washington County.
Outside of Van Buren, Crawford County is mostly rural. Dyer said rural area homes typically sell for less per square foot than those in towns where they are amenities and convenience built into the prices.
HOME SALES (January through July)
2015: $40.334 million
2014: $41.044 million
Median Sales Price
2015: $120.547 million
2014: $104.061 million
Median Sales Price