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High Country Association of Realtors: Late Winter Doesn’t Hamper Home Sales


April 28, 2014. Local realtors sold more than 100 homes last month, the second time since 2008 they’ve surpassed that mark that early in the year.

The sales came despite a month of heavy winter weather. They could have been aided by a growing demand nationally for vacation homes, which is hitting an eight-year high.

There were 105 local homes worth $24.97 million sold in March, according to the High Country Multiple Listing Service, which records Realtor® sales within Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties. That’s a four-month high, and a 9.4 percent increase over sales in March of last year.

The median sold price also increased for the fourth straight month, to $190,000. That’s an 18 percent increase since December, when it was $161,000.

Since 2008, local Realtors® have sold an average of 83 homes in March. That span includes a high of 115 in March 2012, and a low of 59 sold in March 2009.

For the year so far, 269 homes have been sold. That’s an 11 percent increase from this time last year, and up 14.5 percent from the first three months of 2012.

“We are optimistic that sales will continue to increase as our weather improves and more buyers come into our area,” said Laurie Phillips, executive officer of High Country Association of Realtors®.  “We have a very large inventory to choose from and look forward to helping people achieve the dream of owning a home in our beautiful mountains.”

At the start of April there were just over 2,500 listings in the three-county area, up from 2,328 in early February.

The monthly READ Report, which tracks all real estate transactions in the High Country, is showing slight sales growth through the first three months of the year. It reported 563 units sold this year, up 3 percent from the 547 sold in that span in 2013. The total value is also up, $102.34 million to $92.42 million (11 percent).

This was despite a soft March, when sales for the month were down 9 percent (206 from 226 last year).

One of the driving forces behind the demand for High Country homes could be the vacation home market. The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) recently released its 2014 Investment and Vacation Home Buyers Survey, which reported vacation-home sales increased 29.7 percent last year. Vacation-home sales accounted for 13 percent of all transactions, their highest market share since 2006.

Forty-one percent of all vacation homes purchased were in the South

Growth in the equity markets has greatly benefited high net-worth households, thereby providing the wherewithal and confidence to purchase recreational property,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “However, vacation-home sales are still about one-third below the peak activity seen in 2006.”

According to the survey, the typical vacation-home buyer in 2013 was 43 years old, had a median household income of $85,600 and purchased a property that was a median distance of 180 miles from his or her primary residence; 46 percent of vacation homes were within 100 miles and 34 percent were more than 500 miles.

Low interest rates continue to spur sales. The 30-year fixed rate fell in early April, from 4.41 percent to 4.34 percent, according to Freddie Mac. That rate was 3.43 percent one year ago. The 15-year fixed-rate average also edged down, to 3.38 percent.