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Busiest September in decade powers real estate market

Local rest estate activity continued its long standing upward trend through September, with third quarter sales the best in several years.

Growth continues to be driven by competitive interest rates, which remain below 4 percent. Inventory has slowly declined as the summer months fade.

Sales in September 2017Realtors® in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties sold 239 homes worth $65.94 million in September, according to the High Country Multiple Listing Service. It was the most homes sold since August 2016 (241), and the highest total value for a month since last October ($66.63 million).

It was also the busiest September in at least 10 years. Last year there were 227 homes sold in September, and just 200 in September 2015.

For the quarter – which includes all sales from July through the end of September – local Realtors sold 659 listings worth a combined $170.45 million. The sales were up 2.2 percent compared to the same span last year, and up 38 percent compared to the third quarter of 2014.

The average sale price for the quarter – total value divided by individual listings sold – was $258,645.

For the year so far, local Realtors® have sold 1,547 homes worth $392.36 million. The average sold price was $253,628.

As sales have been brisk, inventory has slowly declined. There were 2,277 listings within the MLS as of October 9. That’s down from 2,348 in early September, and the 2,327 for sale August 22.

Interest rates are slightly higher than they were a month ago. Loan giant Freddie Mac reported October 12 the average 30-month fixed rate was 3.91 percent. It was 3.78 a month prior, and 3.47 percent at this time last year.

The average 15-year fixed rate was 3.21 percent, up from 3.08 percent in September.

According to some analysts, the recent destruction by two separate major storm systems may stabilize rates in the short term.

“The impact of [the] hurricanes will make it difficult to read a trend on economic data, keeping mortgage rates in a holding pattern,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com.

Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found that nearly two-thirds of the experts it surveyed predict rates will remain relatively stable in the coming week.

Nationally, home sales are declining. In August, the last month in which national statistics are available, sales of existing homes were down for the fourth time in five months.

“Steady employment gains, slowly rising incomes and lower mortgage rates generated sustained buyer interest all summer long, but unfortunately, not more home sales,” said Lawrence Yun, National Association of Realtors® chief economist. “What’s ailing the housing market and continues to weigh on overall sales is the inadequate levels of available inventory and the upward pressure it’s putting on prices in several parts of the country. Sales have been unable to break out because there are simply not enough homes for sale.”


Inventory declining as real estate activity stays busy

High Country temperatures are beginning to cool, but not the busy summer real estate season.

In August local Realtor activity hit a high for the year, surpassing 200 for the second straight month. Interest rates dropped throughout the month, and by mid-September were at their lowest levels of 2017.

August real estate salesLocal inventory, meanwhile, is starting to decline.

There were 209 homes worth $52.6 million sold in August, according to the High Country Association of Realtors, which represents real estate professionals in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties. That was the busiest month of the year so far, and a slight increase over the 204 homes worth $50 million sold in July.

The average sale price – total value divided by sales – was $251,000, as calculated by the High Country Multiple Listing Service.

Overall sales for the year are slightly outpacing 2016, 1,301 to 1,292. The summer season is just keeping pace with last year. There were 602 homes sold from June through August, compared to 629 sold in that span last year.

Inventory is beginning to reflect the recent activity. After peaking at 2,430 homes in mid-August, there were 2,348 active listings within the MLS as of Sept. 13.

Interest rates are also dropping. Loan giant Freddie Mac reported September 14 the average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage was 3.78 percent. The average 15-year fixed rate was 3.08 percent.

Both rates are down from where they were in mid-March, when the 30-year average was 4.3 percent. They have been on a downward trend since. There is reason to believe that could change.

“Following a sharp decline last week, the 10-year Treasury yield rose 11 basis points this week,” said Freddie Mac Chief Economist Sean Becketti. “If Treasury yields continue to rise, mortgage rates could see an increase in next week’s survey.”

The lower rates are spurring activity. Mortgage applications to purchase a home jumped 11 percent the week of September 11, and were 7 percent higher than a year ago, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Mortgage applications to refinance a home loan also rose, up 9 percent for that week.


Home sales outpacing 2016 rate

Midway through 2017 local real estate sales are slightly ahead of last year’s pace, according to the latest report by the High Country Association of Realtors.

The summer selling season hasn’t been as frantic as last year, but inventory is expanding. New sellers continue to enter the market, reflecting a national survey which shows strong sentiment that now is a good time to sell.

Meanwhile, interest rates after declining from a sharp increase a few weeks ago.

Through June, local Realtors sold 886 homes this year, according to the High Country Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which tracks Realtor sales in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties. That’s the most homes sold in that six-month span in more than 10 years.

It’s 1 percent more than this time in 2016, when 874 homes had sold. It’s also higher than in 2007, when 836 homes were sold prior to the national housing market collapse.

With regard to the summer selling season, local Realtors sold 356 listings in May and June, a 9 percent decline from last year, when 390 homes were sold in that span.

Total sales value for the year so far was $221.62 million, with an average sale price of $250,247.

In June alone, local Realtors sold 187 listings worth $50.23 million.

Inventory has expanded. There were 2,480 active listings in the MLS as of July 27. That’s well below this time last year (2,975) and the year prior (3,104), but a 4 percent increase from mid-June when 2,330 homes were for sale.

Interest rates have long attracted buyers. The 30-year rate had declined since the start of the year, and dropped to 3.88 percent on June 29. It rebounded in mid-July, when it averaged 4.03, according to loan giant Freddie Mac.

That was the first time since May the 30-year rate surpassed 4 percent. It has since declined. As of July 27 the 30-year average rate was 3.92 percent. The 15-year average rate is 3.2 percent.

A year ago both rates were 3.48 percent and 2.78 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) recently released its quarterly Housing Opportunities and Market Experience (HOME) survey. It reported that 71 percent of homeowners think now is a good time to sell, which is up from last quarter (69 percent) and considerably more than a year ago (61 percent).

This is despite declining inventory nationally, compared to this time last year.

“There are just not enough homeowners deciding to sell because they’re either content where they are, holding off until they build more equity, or hesitant seeing as it will be difficult to find an affordable home to buy,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “As a result, inventory conditions have worsened and are restricting sales from breaking out while contributing to price appreciation that remains far above income growth.”

According to the survey, 80 percent of homeowners (unchanged from last quarter and a year ago) think now is a good time to make a home purchase.


Real estate buyers outnumbering sellers nationally

The local real estate market continues hitting high marks in early 2017.

Sales are up from a year ago. Inventory is increasing. And interest rates are slowly inching up.

All three trends portend another busy year for the High Country Association of Realtors®, which represents real estate professionals in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties.

Local Realtors® sold 118 listings in February, up 17 percent compared to the same month last year, and the busiest February since 2007. It also extended to 24 the number of consecutive months sales have surpassed 100, according to the High Country Multiple Listing Service (MLS).

The last month to record just double-digit sales was February 2015, when 94 homes were sold in the four-county area.

The total value of the 118 homes sold last month was $30.28 million. The median sold price – the midpoint at which half of all listings sold above or below – was $187,000. That was the lowest median sold price recorded in a month since February 2016 ($175,000, which matched the median price for July 2015, the previous lowest).

Unseasonably warm temperatures are encouraging sellers to slowly enter the market. As of March 16 there were 1,944 active listings within the High Country MLS. That was slightly higher than at the start of January (1,886), but about 361 fewer than this time last year (2,288).

The lack of strong supply is a national trend. According to the National Association of Realtors®, some portions of the country recorded slower sales last month because, for now, buyers are outnumbering sellers.

“Sales (nationally) got off to a fantastic start in January,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “But last month’s retreat in contract signings indicates that activity will likely be choppy in coming months as buyers compete for the meager number of listings in their price range.”

Meanwhile interest rates continue to fluctuate. After hovering around 4.16 percent the first two months of the year, the average fixed-rate on a 30-year mortgage hit 4.3 March 16, according to loan giant Freddie Mac. That’s the highest average this young year. The rate was 3.73 percent a year ago.

The 15-year average was 3.5 percent, up from 2.42 a year ago.

To put the increase in perspective, a $300,000 home purchased a year ago would have cost $498,940 after 30 years, with a monthly payment of $1,386. That same house purchased today would cost an estimated $534,461 with a monthly payment around $1,485.

Bankrate.com’s recently reported that 90 percent of its experts surveyed believe rates will move higher in the coming weeks.


Interest rates surge, sales hit new high

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 2016 local real estate salesSo far this year local Realtors® have sold 1,934 homes, 14 percent more than were sold in all of 2015. It’s also 5 percent more than were sold in 2007, prior to the collapse of the housing market.

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.


Another gorgeous fall in the High Country

The High Country is a photographers playground, as these recent photos shared on social media prove. Below are scenes from Boone, Grandfather Mountain, Blowing Rock, Beech Mountain, Ashe County and Lees-McRae College. You can see more on our active twitter feed. If you fall in love with the sights, click on over and find your home in this picturesque landscape today!