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Realtors: Home sales dip 2% through August

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Though year-to-date home sales in the Springfield area fell 1.9 percent through August, the industry is showing signs of improvement, according to data from the Greater Springfield Board of Realtors.

Year-to-date home sales in the GSBOR service area – which includes Springfield and several outlying communities such as Nixa and Ozark – were $512.2 million, down from $522.3 million, according to GSBOR President Jeff Parker.

“It’s pretty stable – not near as bad as what people think,” he said, noting that current average sale price is $125,545, down from $133,483 a year ago.

Much of the sales activity for the early part of this year is attributed to the first-time home buyers tax credit, which expired April 30, Parker said. He noted that the average sale price for January through April was about $129,000.

Sales transactions were up through August to 4,080, compared to 3,871 a year ago.

“We’re up in unit sales, which can really be attributed to a lower average sale price, especially through the beginning of the year with the first-time home buyers tax credit,” Parker said.

Now that the first-time buyers tax credit has expired, Parker said different buyers are entering the market – and driving up the average sales price.

Pending sales – those for which contracts were entered but not yet closed – in the month of August had an average sale price of $142,000, roughly flat compared to August 2009.

“I think we’ve really reached the bottom as far as average sale price, as far as losing our price depreciation, because the numbers are telling us that our average prices are going back up,” said Parker, who is managing broker at Murney Associates.

Data from the National Association of Realtors also show modest sales growth, though NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun cautions that the industry could be in for a slow nationwide recovery.

NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index rose 5.2 percent to 79.4, based on U.S. contracts signed in July from 75.5 in July 2009. However, pending sales are down 19 percent from July 2009 when the index was 98.1. In the Midwest, the index increased 4.1 percent to 66.7 but remains 25.7 percent below July 2009.

“Home sales will remain soft in the months ahead, but improved affordability conditions should help with a recovery,” Yun said in a news release. “But the recovery looks to be a long process. Home buyers (in) the past year got a great deal, and buyers for the balance of this year have an edge over sellers. For those who bought at or near the peak several years ago – particularly in markets experiencing big bubbles – it may take more than a decade to fully recover lost equity.”

According to Bankrate.com, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate loan was 4.5 percent as of Sept. 15.

Yun noted that factors such as favorable interest rates could boost the affordability of homeownership for some families and help increase sales.

GSBOR’s Parker is optimistic that interest rates and market conditions will result in a housing market that holds steady for the remainder of the year.

“I think buyers are extremely happy, because the selection is vast, list prices are lower than they’ve been in many years, and the interest rates are down. They can buy a lot more of a house than they could just a few years ago,” Parker said, noting that the current average list price for area homes is $160,854.[[In-content Ad]]

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