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VOL. 128 | NO. 51 | Thursday, March 14, 2013

Downtown Investment

City center’s housing market experiencing uptick

By Sarah Baker

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Downtown’s housing market is seeing more sales, less time on the market, lower price points and inventory shortages.

So far in 2013, Downtown’s housing market is seeing more sales, less time on the market, lower price points and inventory shortages. Sales are up 104 percent over the same period last year.

(Daily News File Photo: Lance Murphey)

There were 51 home sales year to date through February for Downtown’s 38103 ZIP code, a 104 percent increase from the 25 sales through the first two months of 2012, according to real estate information company Chandler Reports, www.chandlerreports.com.

Downtown condo sales year to date through February also increased to 31 from 12 sales in the same period last year.

Nick Rush, agent at the Downtown Condo Connection, said there are currently a total of 85 listings (condos and houses) Downtown, including Mud Island. A year ago, there were around 170 units on the market.

“Inventory is really low Downtown right now, which can be sort of a good thing,” Rush said. “(Eighty-five listings) is not a lot.”

But scarce inventory is the reality citywide. Joe Spake, broker with InCity Realty specializing in Midtown and Downtown, said compared to March 2011 overall figures for the Memphis area, inventory is down by more than 27 percent.

“If/when supply increases, I think the market will be more favorable to sellers with number of sales and prices increasing consistently,” Spake said.

Ashley Dacus of Sowell & Co. Realtors called the current inventory levels Downtown “a little refreshing,” considering the market is moving through its shadow inventory.

“For any buyer clients I’m working with, it’s a little frustrating because there certainly isn’t a whole lot to pick from,” Dacus said. “It’s certainly not a seller’s market by any measure, but it’s a little bit of a shift from what we’ve been used to over the past couple of years when it seemed like buyers had the upper hand and all of the bargaining power.”

While sales so far this year are up, pricing has taken a hit. Year-to-date sales in 2013 averaged $182,618 compared to $229,097 in the same period a year ago.

Chris Garland of Garland & Co. Real Estate said over the past year, pricing became equal to what people were willing to pay.

“Time on the market has gone down as long as the price is correct,” Garland said.

It’s not just houses and condos that are boding well for the Downtown market. The 38103 ZIP code’s rental/apartment market is as strong as it’s been in some time.

“One thing that drove/is driving the apartment market so well Downtown is that the difficulty for financing and the requirement for more cash to purchase has led to more people renting,” Garland said.

And it’s expected to continue, as evidenced by new developments such as The Cabinet Shop, Printer’s Alley Lofts, the Hotel Chisca conversion and possibly more with the Memphis Area Transit Authority’s Request for Proposals for Central Station.

Rush said Downtown Condo Connection’s February was its busiest month in three years, and that rental rates are starting to tick up due to high demand and low supply.

“We leased 16 different places in one month,” Rush said. “Our average is normally four to six.”

Dacus has been working with several renter prospects as well.

“I don’t blame anybody for wanting to take their time, but they don’t want to commit just yet to the Downtown market,” Dacus said. “If we can convert them to people who will actually put down roots and buy something later, it’s just a matter of time. Because they’ll understand the Downtown lifestyle and that it’s worth investing in.”

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

PROPERTY SALES 92 229 4,100
MORTGAGES 94 225 4,615
BUILDING PERMITS 170 538 9,806
BANKRUPTCIES 53 163 3,048