Pace of NWA home sales slowed in 2018

by Paul Gatling ( 997 views 

After several years of sharp annual gains, Northwest Arkansas’ regional housing market cooled off slightly in 2018.

Real estate agents combined to sell 9,992 homes in Benton and Washington counties. That’s according to data from the Matrix software platform used by the Northwest Arkansas Board of Realtors (NABOR).

Those figures represent a 1.3% increase from 9,856 home sales in 2017, according to the data. That’s a marked decline when comparing year-over-year gains dating back to 2014. Unit sales, according to historical data previously reported by the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal, were up 7.7% in 2017, 9.1% in 2016 and 14.6% in 2015.

Despite sales being essentially flat, prices continue to climb in the region. The value of single-family properties sold in the two-county area last year reached an all-time high of $2.35 billion, up 7.9% from $2.18 billion in 2017, the first time residential sales surpassed the $2 billion mark.

The median price of a home sold in Northwest Arkansas last year rose 5.7% to $194,450.

Jennifer Welch is an executive broker with Crye-Leike Realtors in Siloam Springs, and is president of the Northwest Arkansas Board of Realtors (NABOR), the region’s leading trade organization. She said the primary factor that attributed to the slow growth in 2018 was the lack of inventory in the region, but said the market remains strong.

“Our market is great,” she said. “New construction builds continue to increase the inventory, which helps to strengthen our market. That will offer more choices to not only first-time homeowners, but also existing homeowners as their families grow and change.

“Existing home sales experienced a slight drop at the end of 2018 but are expected to rise again during 2019.”

Welch also referenced NABOR’s increased membership as another indicator of the region’s strong market. She said membership in the organization increased by almost 10% from December 2017 to December 2018. NABOR reported 2,737 members as of Dec. 27.

“During a downturn in the market, we see the opposite happen,” she said.

Broken down by county, Benton County home sales in 2018 topped the $1 billion mark for the fourth consecutive year, with a 12-month sales volume of $1.51 billion, up 6.9% from 2017. Unit sales were up 1% to 6,306. The average selling price of a home in Benton County was $239,476, up 5.8% from the previous year.

In Washington County, total sales volume rose 9.6% to $844.67 million last year, while unit sales were up 1.9% — 3,614 to 3,686. The average selling price of a home in Washington County was $229,156, up 7.5% from the previous year.

According to Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors (NAR), rapid price increases have affected the national marketplace.

“Consistently fast-rising home prices well in excess of income growth over recent years have left buyers frustrated while slowly enticing would-be sellers to consider listing,” he said.

Benton County reported 454 home sales worth a combined $111.13 million in December. That compares with 517 and $114.34 million in the year-ago month.

In Washington County, agents sold 235 homes in December — down slightly from 250 last year — with a cumulative value of $53.6 million, down from $54.13 million.