By Jesse Wood
Oct. 31, 2014. The strong summer of real estate sales continued in September, and slightly outpaced last year’s rate.
Since May, local realtors have sold an average of 125 listings a month, according to the High Country Multiple Listing Service, which tracks activity in Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties. That’s just ahead of the same span from last year, when an average of 123 were sold.
Year to date, realtors have sold 973 homes in the region. That’s a 2.5 percent increase compared to last year through September, when 949 were sold.
Sales are likely being driven by long standing buyer’s market conditions. The median sale price this year – the point at which half of all homes sold above or below – is $184,000. That’s well below last year’s median sale price through nine months, $195,000.
The competitive prices are attracting buyers. Last month there were 139 Realtor-assisted sales worth $33.33 million, and a median sale price of $195,000. It was the best September for sales since 2007, before the national housing collapse, when 161 homes worth $54.2 sold for a media price of $255,000.
There were also 310 new listings last month, the fewest since March. As of October 19 there were 3,167 listings within the MLS, a near high for the year.
“We are thankful for the slight increase in our market, which is directly related to a vast inventory and decrease in the median sales price,” said Laurie Phillips, executive officer of High Country Association of Realtors. “The national home sales report reflects a decrease in sales, however, our area is unique and we are cautiously optimistic that the market will continue to stabilize.”
With regard to all property sold in the three-county area, including commercial lots and land, total sales are up 1 percent compared to this time last year. There have been 2,182 properties sold worth $389.36 in 2014, according to the monthly READReport. It also found inventory levels remain at a near all-time high.
Meanwhile, mortgage rates are at lows for the year. According to Freddie Mac, the average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 3.97 percent as of October 19, well below the average 4.53 percent back in January. The average rate for a 15-year mortgage, which is one of the most opted methods for people who are looking for refinancing, dipped to 3.18 percent from 3.30 percent.
The High Country isn’t following the latest national trends. According to the National Association of Realtors, existing home sales slowed in August, the last month in which data is available. Sales decreased 1.8 percent from July. Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says sales activity remains stronger than earlier in the year, but remains below this time last year.
Locally, realtor-assisted sales hit a seven-year high in August, with 170 listings sold. That was a 35 percent increase compared to July. The median sold price remained nearly unchanged though, growing from $187,400 to $187,500.