Real estate sales remain strong through July

Local Realtors® sold more homes in the past 12 months than in any calendar year since 2007, according to the latest month real estate report by the High Country Association of Realtors®.

The brisk activity occurred while interest rates hovered around 4 percent, and are now below where they were a year ago.

Several weeks remain in the traditionally busy summer selling season.

july_graphic“I am happy to report that July was another good month and our year-to-date sales represent a 28 percent increase in sales over last year,” said Erik Lanier, who compiles the monthly READReport, which records all real estate transactions in Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties.

Since August of last year, Realtors® in the three-county area sold 1,502 listings, the most in a 12-month period since 2007. They are selling an average of 125 homes a month, with total sales surpassing 100 in every month but two – January and February.

The median price of a home sold in that span – the price point at which half of all properties sold above or below – was $199,700. That’s higher than any calendar year since 2011.

Sales have increased every month since January, peaking in July when local Realtors® sold 152 homes worth $37.57 million, according to the High Country Multiple Listing Service. That was slightly more homes than sold the month prior; 146 were sold in June.

The median sold price in July was $177,500, underscoring the longstanding buyers’ market trend in the High Country. That was the lowest median price recorded since January, and 11 percent below the median price for the year ($200,000).

Inventory remains strong. As of August 15, there were 3,106 homes recorded within the MLS. This time last year there were just over 3,200 homes within the MLS.

Local trends are mirroring those seen nationally. The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) recently reported that existing-home sales in June were the highest recorded in more than eight years (The July report has yet to be released).

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said this year’s summer buying season has been the strongest since the downturn.

“Buyers have come back in force, leading to the strongest past two months in sales since early 2007,” he said. “This wave of demand is being fueled by a year-plus of steady job growth and an improving economy that’s giving more households the financial wherewithal and incentive to buy.”

Interest rates remain near historic lows. The average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose from 3.91 percent to 3.94 percent, as of August 14. That’s just slightly above the rate in January, 3.7 percent, but below the rate from August 2014, 4.12 percent.

The rate on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages increased last week to 3.17 percent from 3.13 percent.

Median sale price spikes in May

BOONE – Local real estate sales remain steady as the summer season begins, with the median sold price in May spiking to a three-year high.

Realtor® activity in the region continues to slightly outpace the sales pace at this time last year, thanks in great part to buyers’ market conditions and low interest rates.

Monthly graphic for MayThere were 113 Realtor®-assisted home sales worth $30.18 million in May, according to the High Country Multiple Listing Service. With regard to total dollar value, it was the most lucrative month for sales since last November when 135 homes sold worth $31.7 million.

The median sold price – the midpoint price of all sales in the month – was $223,500. That’s the highest median price recorded since February 2012, when 65 homes sold for $16.7 million ($235,000 median price).

In the 39 months since, the median price has surpassed $200,000 on only eight occasions.
Since the beginning of last year, homes in Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties have sold for a median price of $190,000. The average sale price in that span –the total dollar value divided by units sold – was $237,344, according to the High Country MLS.

The past three summer selling seasons have each been stronger than the last. Given activity so far, there’s optimism the trend will continue this year.

“As we head into the summer, we have a vast array of inventory in our MLS and hope to continue the trend from the past few years with an even stronger selling season than last year,” said Laurie Phillips, executive officer with the High Country Association of Realtors®.

Interest rates went up slightly in early June. The average fixed rate for a 30-year mortgage as of July 2 was 4.08 percent, up from 4.04 percent a month prior, according to loan giant Freddie Mac. It’s was the first time in seven months the rate has hit 4 percent, yet it’s still lower than it was this time last year (4.2 percent).

The average fixed rate for a 15-year loan as of July 2 was 3.24 percent.

“Mortgage rates rose above 4 percent for the first time since November 2014 as Treasury yields surged,” said Len Kiefer, deputy chief economist with Freddie Mac. “Markets are responding to strong employment data.”

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.”

Interest rates spur March real estate activity

Interest rates continued falling in March, spurring a busy month of real estate activity in the High Country. Local inventory grew, while nationally the sale of vacation homes hit a 12-year high.

There were 106 homes worth $28.8 million purchased in March, according to the High Country Multiple Listing Service, which tracks Realtor®-assisted sales in Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties.

March 2015 sales graphicThe total sales were two fewer than March 2014, but the median sold price for the month – the midpoint at which half of all homes sold – was $200,000. That’s a 5.7 percent increase from the median price recorded last March, $189,250.

That marked the fourth month in the past six the median sold price has been $200,000 or greater, a streak last recorded in Spring 2012.

Inventory also grew in March, with Realtors® adding more than 200 listings. As of April 12 there were 2,458 homes on the market.

Interest rates continued attracting buyers. The 30-year fixed rate fell a half-percent from early March to April, from 4.38 percent to 3.66 percent as of April 9, according to lending giant Freddie Mac.

In that same time span the 15-year fixed rate declined from 3.03 percent to 2.93 percent.

The low rates combined with a long-standing buyers’ market in the local area are hopeful signs for increased real estate activity as the traditional busy season begins.

“It’s hard to believe that 3 to 4 percent mortgage rates are still with us,” said Pam Vines, president of the High Country Association of Realtors®. “It’s really quite remarkable.”

The READReport, which tracks all real estate transactions in the three-county area, reported 234 properties sold in March well above the 206 sold in March 2014. Yet the cumulative sale price was down slightly, from $40.3 million to $40.06 million.

The average sale price for all property transactions in March was $171,179 according to the READReport, a 13 percent decrease from the average in March 2014, when it was $195,667.

Year to date, property sales are up 12 percent, from 563 in the first three months of 2014 to 628 this year.

With regard to national trends, the High Country market could be impacted by a spike in demand for vacation homes.

According to the 2015 Investment and Vacation Home Buyers Survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), there were 1.13 million vacation-home sold last year, the most since the statistic began being tracked in 2003.

It was a 57 percent increase compared to 2013, when 717,000 vacation homes were sold.

The survey also reported decreases in investment-home sales (down 7.4 percent) and owner-occupied purchases (down 12.8 percent) in that same time span.

“Affluent households have greatly benefited from strong growth in the stock market in recent years, and the steady rise in home prices has likely given them reassurance that real estate remains an attractive long-term investment,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “Furthermore, last year’s impressive increase also reflects long-term growth in the numbers of baby boomers moving closer to retirement and buying second homes to convert into their primary home in a few years.”

The median sales price of both vacation and investment homes declined in 2014. The median vacation home price was $150,000, down 11.1 percent from $168,700 in 2013. The median investment-home sales price was $125,000, down 3.8 percent from $130,000 a year ago.

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.

Buyers’ market conditions continue in the High Country

BOONE – Local real estate sales started the new year as they traditionally do – slowly. Meanwhile interest rates continue to fall.

Realtors® sold 75 residences worth $15.86 million in January, according to the High Country Multiple Listing Service, which records Realtor®-transactions in Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties.

January sales graphicIt was the quietest month of sales recorded since January 2013, when just 64 listings were sold. January also broke a streak of six straight months of plus-100 sales, and recorded a year-to-year decline of 8.5 percent compared to sales last year at this time (82 listings sold).

The early months of the year are traditionally soft in sales. Since 2008, Realtors® have sold an average of 64.8 homes in January. The biggest change in that span, though, was the price at which those homes have sold.

From January 2008 to January 2013, the median sale price for the month was well over $200,000, peaking at $250,000 in 2010. Last January the median sale price recorded was $168,500, a decline of 23.4 percent from the prior January.

Last month the midpoint of all sale prices was $165,000, down 2 percent from a year ago.

These market conditions appear to remain strong in the High Country, which should encourage more potential buyers to explore the area’s real estate opportunities.

“With our local median sale price continuing to decline and interest rates attractively low, we believe all of our communities and mountains will attract new buyers to the area,” said Pam Vines, president of the High Country Association of Realtors.

Local inventory is at its lowest level in more than a year, with 2,227 residential listings as of February 8.

The READReport, which tracks all real estate transactions in the three-county area, reported 180 sales in January, a slight increase from the 174 sold in January 2014. Total value was $50.09 million, with 41 percent coming from commercial sales.

Along with prices, prospective buyers should be encouraged thanks to interest rates continuing to decline. As of February 5, the nationwide average for a 30-year mortgage dropped from 3.66 percent to 3.59 percent. The rate for the 15-year loan went from 2.98 to 2.92

Rates are now at their lowest levels since May 2013, and well below where they were this time last year. In January 2014 the average 30-year mortgage rate was 4.23 percent and the 15-year rate was 3.33 percent.

“With interest rates at lows not seen since early 2013, the strength in existing sales in upcoming months will largely depend on the willingness of current homeowners to realize their equity gains from the past couple years and trade up,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist with the National Association of Realtors®.

Nationally, home sales declined in 2014, down 3.1 percent compared to 2013. The High Country saw a slight increase, with sales up 4.5 percent. Prices were flat though, with the median sale price down just under one percent.