Local real estate sales continue to increase, with first quarter activity this year almost surpassing $100 million.
Individual sales remained strong, a longstanding trend as year-over-year sales activity continued to spike. Interest rates, meanwhile, are trending down.
In the first three months of 2017, Realtors in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties sold 394 homes worth $99.82 million. That’s a 12 percent increase in sales compared to the first quarter of 2016 (351), and 30 percent greater than 2015 (302).
The median sold price so far this year is also higher than last, with the mid-point price of all homes sold since January $206,000, according to the High Country Multiple Listing Service. The median price through the first three months of 2016 was $195,000.
Inventory is slowly growing. As of April 19, there were 2,044 active listings within the MLS. There were 2,388 a year ago, and almost 2,500 at this point in early April 2015.
The limited supply is due to an unrelenting demand, as monthly sales figures continue outpacing previous years. In March, local Realtors sold 172 listings. That’s 26 percent higher than March 2016 (136) and 51 percent higher than March 2015 (114).
The total sales value for the month was $41.58 million, with a median sold price of $212,500. It was the fourth time in the past six months the median sold price surpassed $200,000.
Buyers last month encountered interest rates which have yet to stabilize since year’s start. March opened with the average rate on a 30-year mortgage at 4.1 percent. It went to 4.3 percent by mid-month, and has fallen since.
As of April 13, the average 30-year fixed rate was 4.08 percent, the lowest recorded since January 19. A year ago the rate averaged 3.58 percent, according to loan giant Freddie Mac.
The average 15-year fixed rate was 3.34 percent.
Nationally, sales are on the upswing, according to the National Association of Realtors.
“Being the warmest February in decades also played a role in kick-starting prospective buyers’ house hunt,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.
With one month remaining in the calendar year, local Realtors® have already sold more homes than in any one year since at least 2007.
The latest burst of activity came as mortgage rates did something they haven’t done in years – spike. Dramatically.
November was another busy month. Realtors® sold 184 homes worth $43.58 million, according to the High Country MLS, which records sales in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties. That broke a three-month streak of sales of more than 220 homes, but was still the fifth busiest month this year.
The median sold price – the midpoint at which half of all homes sold – was $192,500.
The strong demand has led to a much reduced inventory, which traditionally shrinks during the winter months. There were 2,224 homes on the High Country MLS as of December 11, the fewest since late February and about 300 fewer than a year ago.
Business in November wasn’t hampered by interest rates, which all the summer remained well below 4 percent. That changed after Election Day.
The week prior to the election, the 30-year fixed rate averaged 3.54 percent, according to loan giant Freddie Mac. Following the election, the average increased to 3.57 percent, then to 3.94 percent the week after. It broke 4 percent November 23 and continues to climb. It was 4.13 percent as of December 8.
The 15-year rate also jumped, from 2.84 percent November 3 to 3.36 percent a month later.
Those rates were 3.95 percent and 3.19 percent, respectively, a year ago.
To put the recent increases in perspective, a $300,000 home purchased the first week of November would have cost $487,383, with a monthly payment of $1,354.
That same house bought this week would cost a total of $523,735 (an increase of almost $37,000). The monthly payment would be $1,455.
Some analysts expect rates to continue increasing.
“As rates continue to climb and the year comes to a close, next week’s … meeting will be the talk of the town with the markets 94 percent certain of a quarter-point-rate hike,” reported Freddie Mac in a release, referring to potential moves by the Federal Reserve.
The summer selling season was busy for local Realtors.
Sales continued at a strong pace as prices attracted buyers to the market. And, as has been the case for most of the year, interest rates remained near historic lows.
That’s a 9 percent increase in sales compared to last September, which was the most active month of 2015. It was also the third time in the past four months Realtors sold more than 200 listings.
With three months remaining in the calendar year, local Realtors have sold 1,499 homes. That is 20 percent more than were sold in the same nine-month period last year (1,254), and more than was sold total in year 2014 (1,470).
The median sold price in September – the midpoint of all sales – was $191,500. That was the lowest since February ($175,000).
As of October 9, there were 2,722 listings active in the High Country MLS. Inventory is down about 8.5 percent since its peak in mid-July, and on par with levels recorded in mid-May.
While sales remain strong, interest rates have fallen and are near historic lows. As of October 6, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.47 percent, according to Freddie Mac. A year ago the 30-year rate averaged 3.82 percent.
To put the decline in perspective, a $300,000 home purchased a year ago would have an estimated $504,464 mortgage and a $1,401 monthly payment.
That same house today, at the current rate, would have a $483,161 mortgage and $1,342 monthly payment.
The 15-year fixed rate now is 2.76 percent, down from 3.03 percent a year ago.
While rates are low, national Realtor sales are declining. In August, the last month in which national statistics are available, sales declined .9 percent. Only the Northeast recorded an increase in existing-home sales.
“There’s no question that after peaking in June, sales in a majority of the country have inched backwards because inventory isn’t picking up to tame price growth and replace what’s being quickly sold.,” said Lawrence Yun, National Association of Realtors’ chief economist.
The median existing-home price for all housing types in August was $240,200, up 5.1 percent from August 2015 ($228,500).
Cash in real estate is becoming increasingly popular, and that may be a good sign. According to the Campbell Surveys and Inside Mortgage Finance, 34 percent of home sales in January were paid with cash. The reasons are two-fold, according to some experts.
The advantage of coming with cash to a real estate transaction is that cash buyers don’t have to worry about qualifying for the more stringent underwriting standards by lenders that have kept so many other buyers out of the market recently. They also have less concern about appraisals derailing a deal, another common problem plaguing many real estate markets.
There are some concerns though. Cash buyers, thanks to bargaining power, may be driving prices down. But in the long run they may aid the market, according to an NPR report.
“These cash buyers are mopping up inventory, and that’s probably the most important thing that can happen right now,” (Richard Green, a professor at the University of Southern California’s Lusk Center for Real Estate) says. “You’re not going to see a recovery in prices until inventories return to more normal levels.”
And, Green says, inventories are starting to stabilize.
That makes this a great time to buy! Explore the opportunities to Live the Dream in the High Country of North Carolina.
6.3 – Inches of snow recorded on Grandfather Mountain so far this winter. That is almost 18 inches below the average for this point in the season.
It has not been a cold winter. Statistics from the weather station atop Grandfather Mountain prove it. The January weather report lists just 3.2 inches of snow for the months, well below the 56-year average of 10.24.
Highs drifted primarily in the 40s and 50s for most of month. But that didn’t stop the local ski resorts from packing on as much of a base as possible, or skiers from coming out to take advantage of it.
Colder weather is expected to sneak into the High Country later this month.
8 – Days in December 2011 when temperatures did not hit freezing. Historically, the average low for every day of the month is below 32 degrees.
The average December high temperature in Boone is 45; it was 48 in December 2011. That’s not too much of a difference. It was the lows that weren’t very low. The historical average for lows in the month is 24 degrees. It was just 31 degrees last month. That included a span of four days, from December 21 to 23, when temperatures bounced between the mid-50s and low to high 30s. Even Christmas Eve was comparatively comfortable, with a high of 44 and low of just 33.
That spring-like thaw looks to end this week. Snow is in the forecast Monday night, with temperatures getting no warmer than 22 Tuesday. Winter may finally be coming – and staying awhile – in the High Country.