Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview

Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview
Overview of Fayetteville, AR

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Housing Market Trends in NW Arkansas—Part 2

As I mentioned in Part 1 of this Housing Market Trends Report, real estate is local.

And two reports out last week point to encouraging trends in the real estate market in Benton and Washington Counties. The 3rd quarter Skyline Report and the 3rd quarter report on the economy were both released by the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Arkansas.

The numbers show a continued decrease in new residential building permits and improving absorption rates, both of which indicate positive movement for the Northwest Arkansas housing market.

One of the reasons for the current buyer’s market is that there is a very high number of homes on the market. In real estate terms, this is called “high inventory”. To get back to a somewhat balanced market it is necessary to decrease the number of homes on the market compared to the number of buyers.

Everyone has heard of the law of “supply and demand.” Low supply and high demand drives up prices. This was the situation of the past several years, where in order to meet the high demand, builders and developers created many new neighborhoods and built a lot of new homes. Unfortunately now, there is a huge supply (high inventory) and fewer buyers, which drives prices down. But trends in NW Arkansas as indicated by 3rd quarter data do show some positive trends.

For 3rd quarter (July through September 2007), Benton and Washington Counties saw a 5.6% drop in the number of complete-but-unoccupied homes from 2nd quarter of 2007. That’s good news in itself, but even better is that the 3rd quarter 2007 saw a 23% drop from the same period of 2006.

Put another way, in the 3rd quarter 2007, 2,276 complete-but-unoccupied houses in Benton and Washington Counties were available compared to 2,411 unoccupied homes in the 2nd quarter of 2007. This represents a decline of 8.8% in available complete inventory from the 2nd quarter to the 3rd quarter of 2007 in Benton County and a decline of 31.7% from the 3rd quarter of 2006. For Washington County, there was actually a 2.3% increase in inventory over the past quarter and a cumulative increase of 7.7% over the past year. For NW Arkansas as a whole, comparing 3rd quarter 2007 to the same quarter of 2006, the number of complete-but-unoccupied new homes dropped from 2,956 to 2,276.

The absorption rate was better in Benton County than Washington County, which is not too surprising when one considers the dynamic growth that Benton County has experienced. Washington County is a more mature market and while there’s no doubt it too has exploded in recent years, the demand has not been quite as intense as Benton County.

This probably also explains why Washington County home prices have dipped a bit in the past months while Benton County house prices have increased slightly. The average selling price of a home in Benton County increased 1.54% to $192,132. In Washington County the average price decreased 1.83% to $181,796 from $185,130.

Building permits issued in the two counties declined 33% in the 3rd quarter 2007 from the 3rd quarter 2006. A total of 653 residential building permits were issued in the two-county area during the third quarter of 2007, while the average value of new residential building permits remained unchanged at slightly under $165K.

All this points to a general improvement in NW Arkansas. Steady demand for new and existing homes coupled with a decrease in new building permits will help decrease inventory and aid in normalizing the market.

The local situation therefore is not as bleak as the national media would have us believe. It’s actually a very good time to purchase a home here.

1. Prices have decreased, while inventory is still high enough to afford buyers a good selection of homes.

2. The number of new jobs in NW Arkansas continues to increase by about 5,000 annually (3%). But Arkansas as a whole had a disheartening job growth rate of only ½ of 1%.

3. Mortgage rates have dropped somewhat and that will help people qualify to buy more home for the same monthly payment.

4. Less expensive homes are moving at a much better rate than homes costing more than $250,000.

It is also interesting to note that vacancy rates in multifamily housing are increasing throughout the area. Vacancy rates in this type of housing are very cyclical and will undoubtedly improve as the overall market improves.

Many new retail, office, commercial and industrial projects have come on board in the past year so it isn’t surprising that vacancy rates are also increasing in this sector. As buildings sit empty, downward pressure is exerted on rent prices, which may be very tough on developers who completed buildings at record high construction and land costs.

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1 comment:

pierce said...

Someone really decided to put on their thinking cap, great going! It’s fantastic to see people really writing about the important things.
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