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Local Real Estate Sales Hit 15-Month Low as Summer Buying Season Begins, Inventory Surges


May 26, 2014. Interest in the local real estate market cooled last month, with Realtor-assisted sales hitting a 15-month low. Meanwhile, inventory surged.

Realtors sold 77 homes worth $18.41 million in April, the fewest transactions recorded in a month since 64 homes sold in January 2013, according to the High Country Multiple Listing Service (MLS).

The median price was $200,000, an eight-month high.

In recent years April has marked the beginning of the busy real estate season in the High Country, as least with regard to listings. Since 2010, it has been the busiest month of the year for new or renewed listings, with an average of 464 added to market.

This year 498 new or re-listed properties were added in April, the most within any month in at least the past eight years.

As of May 11, 2,857 properties were available in the High Country MLS, which tracks Realtor listings in Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties.

The READReport, which records all real estate transactions in the High Country, also reported a decline in April. There were 204 listings sold for $36.12 million during the month, a 19 percent decline from the 251 listings worth $44.65 million sold one year prior, in April 2013.

“We seem to be following the National Association of Realtors housing trend which shows that sales are down and inventory is up,” said Laurie Phillips, executive officer of High Country Association of Realtors®. “With inventory up in our local market and the summer weather just around the corner, we are looking forward to greater sales activity in the coming months.”

While Realtor sales are ahead of last year’s pace – 343 to 335 – the total dollar amount is down slightly, from $79.69 million sold in the first four months of 2013 to $79.39 million so far this year.

The median sold price is down 4 percent, from $185,000 to $179,000.

The local trends are being reflected nationally. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported little growth in existing home sales in March. There has also been an increase in unsold inventory, which is up 3.1 percent compared to a year ago.   After several months of encouraging signs of recovery, there is now talk of the housing market slowing.

“There really should be stronger levels of home sales given our population growth,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, adding there are reasons to be optimistic. “With ongoing job creation and some weather delayed shopping activity, home sales should pick up, especially if inventory continues to improve and mortgage interest rates rise only modestly.”

Actually, mortgage rates continue to drop, defying many analyst expectations. Last winter some economists were predicting interest rates would hit 5 percent this year. Today they are at a six-month low. As of May 8, the rate on a 30-year loan was 4.21 percent, down from 4.29 percent the week prior. The 15-year rate also declined, from 3.38 percent to 3.32 percent.