Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview

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

Sunday, March 14, 2010

NW Arkansas Housing Market--4th Quarter Skyline Report

In the last few weeks the 4th quarter Skyline report was released by the Center for Business and Economic Research at the U of A. At the quarterly Washington County breakfast sponsored by Arvest (also sponsor of the report), Kathy Deck, director of the Center and chief researcher for the Skyline report, talked about the economy as well as the housing market.

The economy—particularly employment—strongly influences the housing market for Northwest Arkansas. If there are no jobs then people will not move to the area. If we don’t have more people moving to the area, there will be no need to construct new homes, establish new businesses (to fill up the vacant commercial and office space we have), improve rental vacancy rates, etc. And if people don’t need homes, the real estate market suffers. It’s that simple.

Nationally it seems that the economy is picking up slightly, and NW Arkansas figures are somewhat better than the national ones. The GDP is up—which means that production is up. Inventories have been depleted so factories are producing more. Some folks who were laid off have been called back to work, a good sign. On the other hand, employers don’t feel confident enough to hire a lot of new people either. Thus in NW Arkansas employment figures are now at about 2006 levels, while nationally they’re at about 2000 levels.

Bottom line is that although there is some positive growth again, it will not be the “go-go” growth of the bubble years. What is needed is good, sustainable growth. According to Deck, “flat is the new up,” when compared to declines during the recent recession.

In the realm of commercial space in Q4 in NW Arkansas, there was near record available space in all sectors. This is one area where NW Arkansas figures are worse than the national figures. For example, office and retail space in all of the NW Arkansas communities is a lot above the national average, although it varies by town. Thus leasing costs have gone down and there are anecdotal reports of greater demands by tenants—leasing incentives such as greater build-out allowances, free rent, and delays in scheduled lease rate increases, for example.

For multifamily, vacancy rates are also above national levels. The national vacancy rate is 8.5% for 1-2 bedroom apartments. NW Arkansas rates approached 15% in Q4, primarily because of a lot of new apartments which were constructed, especially in Fayetteville. Expected population growth didn’t materialize, so the number of vacant units remains high. Springdale is lower, but still over 10%.

In the single family arena, building permits are now very low but the market can sustain this level. The value of permits issued has risen, since many of the residential building permits are for custom homes in Fayetteville and Springdale. In the smaller towns of Washington County most of the new permits issued have been for small, affordable homes.

The inventory is down and the problem of absorption is no longer due to overbuilding, but rather a slow down of demand (i.e. fewer people are to the area). According to Deck, the market can support a low level of construction, in fact we need to have some construction occur. As available units are absorbed, there needs to be replacement or prices will rise significantly as demand outpaces supply.

Prices on single family homes have continued to decline, so that values are now at approximately 2004 levels. In Benton County, the decline was 7.7% compared to the same period last year, and in Washington County there was nearly a 14% decline. There may be continued adjustment due to downward pressure caused by foreclosures and sales of distressed properties as well as by the decreased absorption rate.

Ultimately, low interest rates, lower prices, and the first time home buyer tax credit make this a wonderful time to purchase a home in NW Arkansas. Not a great time for selling, however. The thing buyers need to remember is that purchasing a home is normally considered to be a long-term investment, so that even if prices continue to decline, they will eventually begin to appreciate again.

Predictions are that interest rates will begin to rise, and (with low rates of construction of new homes) absorption of current inventory will also cause prices to begin to rise again.

For more information about real estate in NW Arkansas visit Judy Luna’s main website:

To search for homes or other property in the NW Arkansas MLS:

For more information about the Q4 Skyline report:

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