Busy selling season starting early

Local Realtors® have enjoyed a brisk start to 2015, the busiest in eight years.

Buyers’ market conditions and low interest rates continue to fuel activity, convincing many sellers to get an early start on the busy summer season. New listings surged in April.

april sales graphicSo far this year Realtors® have sold 390 listings, according to the High Country Multiple Listing Service, which tracks sales in Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties. That was an increase of 11.7 percent compared to the same span in 2014, when 349 listings sold.

It’s also the most listings sold to start a year since 2008, when 381 transactions were recorded.

Prices, though, remain well below where they were then. In the first four months of 2008, the median sale price was $226,000. This year, in that same span, the price was $200,000.

As buyer activity has picked up, so has seller interest. There were 571 listings added or renewed within the MLS in April, which represents one of the earliest starts to the busy selling season in recent memory. An average of only 471 listings have been added the past five Aprils, and never more than 500 in the month.

“We are excited to see that our selling season has started off so strong,” said Laurie Phillips, executive officer with the High Country Association of Realtors®. “With inventory high and interest rates still low we are looking forward to an even stronger market increase as we get into the summer months.”

With regard to April, Realtors® reported selling 110 homes worth $26.24 million. That was up slightly from March, when 106 sales occurred, but was a huge increase from a year ago, April 2014, when only 77 homes sold.

The median sale price for last month was $187,500, down 6.3 percent compared to April of last year ($200,000).

Interest rates climbed slightly in April. The average rate for a 30-year mortgage was 3.66 on April 9, and creeped up to 3.8 percent by May 7, according to loan giant Freddie Mac. The 15-year rate also climbed in that span, from 2.93 percent to 3.02 percent.

Those low rates, along with other economic conditions, are expected to boost the housing market this year, according to one analyst.

“This should be a good year for housing, buoyed by sustained job growth, rising consumer confidence that is back to pre-recession levels, and a gradual uptick in household formations,” said David Crowe, National Association of Home Builders chief economist. “We expect 2016 to be even better, due to a significant amount of pent-up demand and an economy that will be entering a period of reasonable strength and consistency.”

Snow surprise to wake up to

It’s been a very wintry winter so far this season in the High Country. Seems nary a week has gone by this month without a snow event. The latest was an unexpected surprise, with more than three inches of snow falling overnight.

Here are some of the scenes shared on social media.

Interest rates continue encouraging home sales

listingssoldoct14 BOONE – October was a great time to be involved in the real estate market. Mortgage rates continued declining, and overall local Realtor® activity remained on pace to increase for the fifth consecutive year.

Since spiking in March, interest rates have been dropping steadily. The average 30-year, fixed-rate was 3.97 percent the week of October 16, the low for the year. In the month since it’s nudged up slightly, to 4.02 percent as of November 16.

The average for a 15-year mortgage was 3.20 percent, down from 3.21 percent.

“Lower rates have fueled more calls requesting rates, closing turnaround time and closing fees,” said Susan Norris with Piedmont Federal in Boone. “Also, we’ve seen an increase in inquiries regarding refinancing from a variable rate to a fixed rate mortgage based on expectations that rates will increase.“

Many analysts are now expecting rates to eventually climb through the next 12 months. According to the Washington Post recently, the Mortgage Bankers Association expects the average rate on a 30-year, fixed rate mortgage to rise to 5.1 percent by the end of 2015.

For now, the rates have been welcome in the High Country.

During October local Realtors® sold 140 homes worth $35.7 million, according to the High Country Multiple Listing Service.

Median sold price past three yearsThe median sale price – the price point at which half of all properties sold above and below – was $204,000, the highest since last November.

The average sale price – total value divided by units sold – was $255,030, the highest since last October.

Current inventory is at the lowest point since April. There were 2,865 active MLS listings in Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties as of November 15, down from a peak of 3,278 in August.

For the year Realtor® sales have slightly outpaced 2013 sales, with 1,121 listings sold through the first 10 months. That’s an increase of 2 percent over the 1,099 sold in that span last year. Yet total value is down 7 percent, from $283 million to $263 million, and the median sold price is down 1.6 percent, from $190,000 to $187,000.

Those trends are mirrored somewhat in the latest READReport, which records all local land transactions including lots and commercial properties. It finds sales and total value year to date both down around 1 percent compared to 2013, from 2,344 units sold to 2,461, and sales down from $447.03 million to $440.97 million.

Nationally, sales are declining year over year. According to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), existing-home sales this year are expected to fall to 4.9 million from 5.1 million in 2013. They are forecast to increase to 5.3 million next year and 5.4 million in 2016.

Some of that increase is attributed to pent-up demand. According to a BAR survey released November 3, the share of homes bought by first-time buyers has dropped to the lowest point in almost 20 years. The survey found 33 percent of homes purchased this year were by first-time buyers, the lowest proportion reported since 1987 (30 percent).

The long-term average in the survey is 40 percent.

High Country welcomes Snowvember

The first day of November did its best impression of the first day of January, with several inches of snow blanketing parts of the area. Here are a few photos shared on social media.

The colors of Fall 2014

The High Country’s changing of the season, as shared online.

The clouds are gorgeous on campus today. #appstate #booneview #nofilter

A photo posted by @therealsundance on

Fall colors beginning to bloom

It’s that time of year again. The changing of the seasons from fall slowly into winter comes highlighted with a spectacular explosion of color. The peak time for leaf watching in the High Country is now through October 15.

An updated Fall Color Report is expected soon. Until then, here are a few photos of our fall color so far.