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VOL. 6 | NO. 16 | Saturday, April 13, 2013

Signs of Life

Home sales, average pricing improve in first quarter of 2013

By Michael Waddell

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Home sales activity picked up in the first quarter of this year across the Mid-South, and brokers believe the market recovery is gaining traction.

ERA Legacy Realty broker Regina Hubbard, left, with Sylvia Thomas and homeowner Neale Payne review a property that Payne and his wife are getting ready to list on the market. Hubbard is also president of the Memphis Area Association of Realtors. 

(Photo: Lance Murphey)

Shelby County home sales rose 6 percent during the first quarter, with 3,382 sales from January to March compared to 3,179 during the first quarter of 2012, according to real estate information company Chandler Reports, www.chandlerreports.com.

The average sales price rose 11 percent to $120,628 in Q1 from $108,688 a year ago, while the total sales volume reached nearly $408 million in the first quarter, an 18 percent increase from $345.5 million in Q1 2012.

“The first quarter has been such a great improvement over this time last year,” said Regina Hubbard, president of the Memphis Area Association of Realtors and broker/trainer with ERA Legacy Realty.

Hubbard was impressed by the fact that average sales price rose in the first quarter over the year prior.

“That is significant,” she said. “Hopefully that will get the sellers out, ready to put their properties on the market knowing that the sales prices are moving back in a positive direction.”

She is seeing signs of life across the area.

“I’m seeing developments in Germantown, Bartlett and Frayser where there have been empty lots there for four or five years, and now I see construction,” Hubbard said. “So it is very exciting.”

Thomas Murphree, appraiser and principal broker/owner of Birch Street Realty Resources, is also seeing improvement across the area.

“We’ve seen a strong start this year, and when you look at the larger indicators, everything is in the green and looking good,” Murphree said.

He is encouraged by increasing home values in hard-hit markets like Frayser, whose 38127 ZIP code registered the most sales in the first quarter with 216.

“A lot of the NSP (Neighborhood Stabilization Programs) money was spent in the Frayser submarket, and I wonder if we are seeing some of the results from those government dollars,” Murphree said.

One trend he is seeing is longer waiting times for loans to close, sometimes as much as 50 to 60 days now as opposed to a little as two weeks in the past.

Traditional, or nonbank, sales totaled 2,574 during the quarter, a 16 percent jump compared to Q1 2012. Sales averaged $135,958 and totaled nearly $350 million.

Another good sign was that bank, or foreclosure, sales dipped in the first quarter by 15 percent, totaling 808 versus 951 in the same quarter last year. The average bank transaction sold for $71,792, up 9 percent from $65,877 in 2012, and total sales volume equaled $58 million.

Eads’ 38028 ZIP code boasted the highest average sales price at $710,667, while Collierville’s 38016 was the top ZIP code for dollar volume with $49.3 million.

Carmen Prince, president of the Memphis Chapter of Women’s Council of Realtors and an agent with RE/MAX Right Way in Millington, is seeing strong activity in Bartlett and Millington.

“I have seen a big increase of sales in Millington,” she said. “We have new businesses and restaurants that have or are coming to the area, which creates jobs.”

She remains bullish on Tipton County, despite sluggish activity so far this year.

“Although sales dropped in Tipton County in March, the median sales price for a home rose by 9 percent over March 2012,” Prince said. “I think Tipton County remains a strong submarket because of the excellent school system and low crime rate.”

As for 2013, she believes the numbers will continue to grow, citing Dr. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, who spoke at the MAAR Residential Summit earlier this month at the Germantown Performing Arts Center.

“His forecast showed that interest rates will stay low through 2015, and with the economy growing stronger we will see the Y Generation starting to buy houses and move out of their parents’ homes,” Prince said. “Existing home inventory is at a 13-year low while new construction inventory is at a 50-year low. The housing market will quickly turn to a seller’s market and that means higher prices.”

Realtors are looking forward to the warmer summer months, which are traditionally stronger for home sales.

“There are some great properties at good prices right now, and I think our consumer base is waking up,” Hubbard said. “It’s our best season starting in the spring, running from April to September. We anticipate more sellers coming out and putting their properties on the market. Inventory is down some so it’s a good time for them.”

She expects to see families taking advantage of the summer months when schools are out to make the move into a new home.

“It’s convenient for them, and they can get everything in order before schools start back,” she said.

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

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PROPERTY SALES 105 105 9,674
MORTGAGES 82 82 11,396
BUILDING PERMITS 134 134 20,444
BANKRUPTCIES 58 58 6,495

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