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Sales, listings, prices up compared to one year ago

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by Jan K. Allen

SBJ Contributing Writer

According to Greater Springfield Board of Realtors Multilist Service statistics, the total number of residential listings on the market in 1997 January through July was 6,937. The same period in 1998 showed 7,393 listings. The number sold in this time frame in '97 was 2,441. In '98, residential sales were 2,679.

Although these totals do not suggest a huge jump, the average price for homes sold in the first half of '97 was $96,551, while '98 homes sold are averaging a price of $101,736.

The '98 total includes three very large sales which may have swayed the numbers, according to Lou Sable, director of the Greater Springfield Board of Realtors. So, the actual average selling-price range is probably somewhat less that what the figure indicates.

"Listings are up and sales are at least equal to last year," Sable said.

"There is still plenty of inventory," he added.

Some of the glut built up over the past two years is beginning to be sold off, especially in new starts, and sellers are getting their asking price, or close to it if they have the property priced right in the first place, local Realtors said.

Buyers are more astute than ever, according to Dawn Selim, president of Southwest Mortgage Company. Buyers know what they want and are willing to shop the market until they find it, she added.

More and more buyers are going through the process of becoming pre-approved for home loans. This is good for buyers and sellers alike, Selim said.

The buyer can go in as a cash buyer, without worrying about delays in the loan process or possible refusal to make the loan. The seller rests at ease that their property won't be tied up while they wait for loan approval. Selim said pre-approval usually takes about 10 days.

Selim said she feels the market is still very price-oriented, but people continue to come from other regions, which makes it an active marketplace, despite the buyer's advantage in the number of properties to choose from.

Mike Dempsey, salesperson at Keller-Williams Realty, said the market is pretty much even now, but all indications are that we're heading for an upward trend.

"If you are priced right now, it's going to sell. You couldn't say that a year ago," he said.

Real estate is strong nationally, but Springfield tends to follow a little behind national statistics, Dempsey stated.

Dempsey said he expects a good market for the next three to five years, which is pretty much the way the business cycle runs in general, he said.

The influx of buyers from other regions has kept the market healthy here, even in the slower periods of the past year and a half, according to Susan Barnett, salesperson/broker for Coldwell Banker Vanguard, Realtors.

Barnett said Christian County, which includes the fast-growing communities of Nixa and Ozark, is the 10th fastest growing county in the nation.

In spite of an overstock of homes in the past two years, we've never had a major setback in Springfield and the surrounding area, Barnett said.

With selling points like major health care facilities along the Medical Mile, a generally low cost of living and a desirable climate, Springfield will continue to attract people from other regions of the country, Barnett said.

There is still a lot of inventory, but the market is starting to turn around, according to Paul Koch, salesperson with Jones and Company.

People tend to make a comparison with the hot years, like '93 and '94, and think the market is sluggish, but the number of sales in this area is still respectable, and the medium range is beginning to climb a little, Koch said.

What sellers need to realize in this kind of market is that the buyer has plenty of houses to choose from, he said.

"If it is a cream puff, priced right, it will sell today. If not, people will pass it up and find one for the same price that is" a real cream puff, Koch said.

Dempsey and Barnett agreed with Koch that pricing is the key.

According to Barnett, the average sales price is usually about 95 percent to 97 percent of the asking price. However, statistics show that only one in three listings will sell. When you throw older houses into the pot with an over-supply of new starts, it intensifies the competition.

This is a strong indicator that properties must be priced right if the seller wants to be among that number of sold properties.

Interestingly, July sales were down slightly from 442 in 1997 to 438 in '98. But the average sales price jumped from $95,682 to $103,798.

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