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VOL. 125 | NO. 46 | Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Home Sales Rebound Despite Weather Obstacles

By Eric Smith

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February, the shortest month of the year with only 28 calendar days, is at a natural disadvantage when it comes to home sales.

Toss in this past February’s record cold temperatures coupled with winter storms wreaking havoc on the area, and it probably wouldn’t surprise anyone to see the housing market suffer yet another slow period.

But February defied the odds by notching 959 home sales in Shelby County, a 10 percent increase from 870 sales in February 2009 and an 8 percent increase from 885 sales in January, according to the latest data from Chandler Reports, www.chandlerreports.com.

Despite the improvement in homes sold, prices continued to slide. February saw an average sales price of $100,844, down 8 percent from $110,170 in February 2009 and down 11 percent from $113,162 in January.

And last month’s total dollar volume of $96.7 million marked a slight increase, 1 percent, from $95.8 million in February 2009, but a 3 percent decrease from $100.1 million in January.

Glenn Moore, owner of Glenn Moore Realty and president of the Memphis Area Association of Realtors, said February’s surprising performance was a simple case of an emerging positive buying climate in spite of the weather outside.

“I think people are analyzing the situation – prices are staying low, interest rates are staying low,” he said. “It’s a unique time, and I think they’re taking advantage of that.”

But the bump in sales from January to February could be an anomaly, said Dick Leike, founder of Crye-Leike Realtors Inc. He attributed some of the increase to the last business day of January getting hit by a snowstorm.

“That’s the end of the month and that’s when you do a lot of closings,” he said. “There’s no question weather had a hard time on us in January, and I think it also spilled over into February some, to tell you the truth.”

As Leike and others deduced, some of the closings were held over to the following week – and the following month – aversely affecting January’s numbers and positively affecting February’s.

Still, the mood among real estate professionals is that 2010 has gotten off to a good start amid the outside obstacles.

Breaking out the nonbank, or traditional, sales from the bank, or foreclosure, sales once again painted a slightly different picture of the market. Nonbank sales accounted for only 55 percent of the market, the lowest total in about a year.

The county saw 527 nonbank sales, an 18 percent increase from 446 in February 2009 and a 3 percent increase from 511 in January. Last month’s nonbank sales average of $134,478 was a decrease from the previous month and same month a year ago.

Meantime, bank sales totaled 432, up 2 percent from 424 in February 2009 and up 16 percent from 374 in January. Last month’s bank sales average of $59,814 was down from February 2009’s but up from January’s.

The top ZIP code for sales last month was Raleigh’s 38128 with 76, but 42 of those were bank sales (second best in that category to Frayser’s 38127 with 46). On the nonbank side, East Central/Poplar Perkins’ 38117 led all ZIPs with 38 sales.

One trend helping drive sales during the past couple of months has been the $8,000 first-time homebuyers tax credit, which expires April 30. Leike said the program has been a huge emphasis for his company as the deadline approaches.

“We’re pushing it left and right,” he said. “We’re trying to let the public know they only have until the end of April to get these things under contract, and they have to be closed by the first of (July). We’re trying to make sure they understand now’s the time to do it.”

Joe Spake, a broker at Revid Realty and MAAR director, said half of his pending sales are because of the first-time homebuyers tax credit.

“There seems to be a little bit of thawing out of people being scared to do something,” he said.

And with spring less than two weeks away, the hope that sales pick up even more in the coming months has taken hold.

“We’ve had such a long, hard winter,” Moore said. “Just with the sunshine and the good weather coming, in normal years throughout history, it’s always been a time of year when people get out and actually do start looking more.”

Chandler Reports is a division of The Daily News Publishing Co. Inc.

PROPERTY SALES 0 291 21,272
MORTGAGES 0 160 16,194
BUILDING PERMITS 258 692 41,920
BANKRUPTCIES 1 117 6,579