Pace of NWA home sales levels off, cause partially pinned on failed change in MLS system

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 1,567 views 

According to historical data previously reported by Talk Business & Politics, there were 7,314 home sales in Benton and Washington counties in 2014. That total jumped to 8,382 in 2015, 9,146 in 2016 and 9,843 in 2017, which reflect annual increases of 14%, 9.1% and 7.6%, respectively.

At the midway point of 2018, the latest data from the Matrix multiple listing service (MLS) indicates the market is experiencing a leveling off of home sales from the lofty heights of the past several years.

Residential real estate brokers in Northwest Arkansas sold 4,733 homes through June in the two-county area, with a total sales volume of $1.11 billion. That’s down 1.3% in terms of unit sales — there were 4,798 home sales in the first six months of 2017 — but the sales volume is up 5.7% from $1.05 billion in the same six-month period last year.

By county, home sales in Benton County totaled 3,002 for a sales volume of $712.14 million through June. That compares with 2,992 (0.3%) and $675.37 million (5.4%) during the same six-month period last year.

In Washington County, home sales through June totaled 1,731 with a sales volume of $400.1 million. That compares with 1,806 (-4.5%) and $382.15 (4.69%) during the same six-month period last year.

According to data from Weichert, Realtors-The Griffin Co., which has offices in Bentonville, Fayetteville, Fort Smith and Springdale, the absorption rate — how long, on average, inventory will sit on the market — in the two-county area as of July 10 was 3.07 months. That’s up slightly from 2.85 from January, which is a trend in the right direction.

While the mid-year totals can be attributed to housing inventory still being lower than the demand, Brandon Long, principal broker and co-owner of Weichert, Realtors-The Griffin Co., attributed the “off” market numbers — at least in part — to a failed change earlier this year in the MLS software platform used by the Northwest Arkansas Board of Realtors (NABOR).

A committee board within NABOR recommended changing MLS systems from Matrix to Navica. The change in technology was met with an uproar among Realtors, Long said, because of the new system’s complexity, but also how outdated the software was. The board ultimately decided to let NABOR members vote on June 15 which system to use. It was overwhelmingly decided, Long said, to return to the familiarity of the Matrix system.

“For about two months, there was a big slowdown that many Realtors attribute to the change in the MLS systems,” Long said. “Showings and sales both suffered, according to a lot of top-producing agents. And there’s been residual effects for a month or so since then.

“I’d say once all is said and done and we look back on it, we’ll see that contributed to 4 to 5 months of sales being ‘off’,” Long added.

Long said another contributing factor is that home sales that were put into the Navica system, haven’t been moved back over to the Matrix system.

“The numbers seem to be trending back in a positive direction, although in my opinion, the numbers are still incomplete,” Long said.

Jan Holland, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Harris McHaney Faucette in Bentonville, noted one segment of the market where inventory is becoming more balanced — the higher-end market.

“The buyers are still there for the higher price points,” she said “There’s just so many more choices than years past.”

Holland said the market “definitely” favors buyers among high-end homes.

“Leveling off had to happen at some point to keep things healthy,” she said.

There were a combined 1,082 home sales in Benton and Washington counties in June, up 11.8% from 967 in the same month of 2017. The average price of each home sale also jumped, from $233,480 in June 2017 to $238,445 this past June.

The rising home prices pushed total sales volumes higher. Total sales volume in the two-county area increased to a combined $257.99 million in June, up 14.2% compared with $225.77 million in June 2017.

In Washington County there were 429 homes sold in June with a combined value of $99.77 million, up compared with 376 (14%) and $88.44 million (12.8%) in June 2017.

Benton County agents combined to sell 653 homes in June for a sales volume of $158.22. That’s up 10.5% from 591 unit sales in June 2017, and a 15.2% increase from sales volume of $137.33 million last year.

HOME SALES DATA (January through June)
Benton County
Unit Sales
2018: 3,002
2017: 2,992
Sales Volume
2018: $712.14 million
2017: $675.37 million
Median Sold Price
2018: $197,000
2017: $189,420
Median Sold Price Per SF
2018: $107.79
2017: $101.94

Washington County
Unit Sales
2018: 1,731
2017: 1,806
Sales Volume
2018: $400.10 million
2017: $382.15 million
Median Sold Price
2018: $187,000
2017: $175,000
Median Sold Price Per SF
2018: $110.24
2017: $104.80