Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview

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

Monday, January 30, 2006

New Elementary School Boundaries for Fayetteville

At its meeting last Thursday, January 26, the Fayetteville School Board approved new attendance zone boundaries for the city, not only for elementary schools (including the new Rupple Road School), but also for middle and junior high schools. The vote was 4-3 approving the new elementary school map, and 7-0 approving the new middle and junior high school maps.

According to the NW Arkansas Times (Saturday, January 28), as many as about 1000 Fayetteville students may have to move to different elementary schools, although students who have completed at least 2 years at their current elementary school will be allowed to finish there. And contrary to previous tentative plans , the area currently served by Jefferson Elementary (which will be closed) will not be in the new Rupple Road school area, but rather in the newly drawn Washington Elementary area. However, current Jefferson students will be allowed to attend the Rupple Road school if they so choose.

For those interested, the new area maps may be seen at:

These maps will interest buyers who wish to purchase homes in a particular elementary school area. Previously, the NW Arkansas MLS permitted home searches by elementary school, but the new MLS system, adopted by the Metro Board and implemented in November of last year, no longer permits this capability. Thus it is up to potential home buyers to assure that the home they will purchase is in the school area they wish. These maps may help in this regard, but buyers may also wish to contact the Fayetteville school administration to confirm which area their new home is in.

The website address for the Springdale school maps is:
Under "Attendance Zones" click on the type of map you want: elementary, middle, junior high, or high school to see the appropriate map.

For Rogers and Bentonville, there are no maps, but if you enter your address at the following website addresses, the system will tell you which school your children will attend:

Fayetteville's New Sewage Treatment Plant--Finally!

According to today's NW Arkansas Times, construction will finally begin on Fayetteville's new sewage treatment plant, roughly four months after its originally scheduled completion date. "Its about damn time," said Ward 2 Alderman Kyle Cook, chairman of the water and sewer committee. And I say, "Amen."

The Times quoted Cook as being "glad that construction will soon begin, but (he) remains wary of future problems and cost increases that could develop during construction. 'Just getting the thing out of the ground is the first hurdle,' Cook said. 'Getting it standing and operational is another thing.' "

A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for Friday, a visible sign of progress for the $180 million project, which is being financed with a voter-approved 3/4% added to the sales tax to pay up to $125 million of the final cost.

With the continuing explosive growth in NW Arkansas, infrastructure projects like the sewage treatment plant are important. The area must have the capacity to serve the 1000 people per month who are moving here. And this just doesn't apply to Fayetteville's new plant. We need more and better roads too--rush hour traffic (and even non-rush hour traffic) in the Rogers/Bentonville area, as well as on Hwy 265 between Springdale and Fayetteville or Hwy 412 through Springdale, has become burdensome and does not contribute positively to the "quality of life" reasons that many people are relocating here.

In the meantime, at least one step has been taken with the decision to begin construction on the long overdue sewage treatment plant. Let's hope that city and regional planners can put their heads together to solve some of the area's other pressing problems.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Business Forecast '06

On Friday, January 27, the 12th annual Business Forecast '06 luncheon was held at the Springdale Convention Center. Over 1000 local business people attended. Speakers addressed economic issues affecting not only NW Arkansas, but also the nation and the world.

Sponsored by the Center for Business and Economic Research of the Sam Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, the speakers included Dan Worrell, Dean of the Walton College of Business; Thomas "Mack" McLarty (former chief of staff for President Clinton), who introduced the panelists and served as moderator; Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, Chief Economist for Ford Motor Company; James Glassman, Managing Director and Senior Policy Strategist for JPMorgan Chase & Company; and Jeff Collins, Director of the Center for Business and Economic Research.

The general consensus among the panelists with regard to the economic forecast for the coming year was one of "cautious optimism." Ellen Hughes-Cromwick spoke on international trends, James Glassman on the US economy, and Jeff Collins on the state of Arkansas and the northwest region in particular. In response to a question from the audience on "what worries you?" each responded in turn: Hughes-Cromwick--energy markets and political instability in oil producing areas, Glass--the danger of protectionist policies which might be implemented by the US, and Collins--the eroding commitment to US innovation, research and development, which (in the past) has led to wealth creation.

With regard to the state of Arkansas as a whole, Jeff Collins discussed growth in different areas of the state, most of which is occuring in the Little Rock/Central Arkansas area and in NW Arkansas. However, the state is losing manufacturing jobs, which in the past have provided high pay, due to globalization. Although new jobs are being created at a steady pace, the majority of these are low-paying, low-skill jobs. Collins expressed the need for an educated work force which would allow for the creation of high-wage, high-skill jobs. 80% of the new jobs in the state during the past 10 years have been created in Northwest Arkansas and Little Rock--62% in NW Arkansas and 18% in central Arkansas.

Underlying economic trends in NW Arkansas and the central part of the state is increased urbanization, as well as a remarkable rate of population and employment growth. About 1000 people per month are moving to NW Arkansas while about 560 jobs are being created each month. The largest sector for job growth is natural resources, mining and construction.

As a side observation with regard to home construction, he noted that in NW Arkansas in the 2nd quarter of 2005, there were 13,000 lots actively being built upon with 12,000 more platted but not yet active. By the 3rd quarter of the year, there were 16,000 lots being built upon with 15,000 more platted but not yet active. This represents a gain of 5000 lots in only 3 months.

Collins observed that the state economy is dominated by low-wage, low-skill employment, making the current workforce in much of the state ill-equipped to compete in the global marketplace for high-wage, high-skill jobs. The initiative to bring an auto manufacturing plant to Arkansas, which is being discussed in the media, will temporarily forestall the erosion in manufacturing jobs, but he suggested that the auto plant would be like adding a bucket of water to a bathtub with a slow leak.

In summary, Collins stated that the challenge to Northwest Arkansas is to provide state leadership commensurate with the economic power held in the area. Increasingly the whole state depends on the economic development here. But there are obstacles to continued growth--in particular, lack of infrastructure (especially roads, water supply and wastewater treatment). The area must respond with cooperation across governmental organizational boundaries and a unified vision for the future of the area.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Recent Study of Home Prices in NW Arkansas

The Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers metropolitan statistical area tied with seven other MSAs as the nation’s 144th most overvalued residential housing market, according to a CNN Money report on Jan. 3.

The report cited a third-quarter Housing Market Analysis by National City Corp., a financial holding company, in conjunction with Global Insight, a financial information provider.
The study said the Fayetteville market — which includes Benton, Washington and Madison counties in Northwest Arkansas as well as McDonald County, Mo. — is overvalued by 11 percent. In all, 65 of the nation’s 299 biggest real estate markets are “severely overpriced and subject to possible price corrections,” the CNN report stated.

Other Arkansas cities were deemed undervalued. Little Rock was undervalued by 6 percent. Fort Smith was undervalued by 8 percent. The Memphis area — which includes parts of Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi — was undervalued by 8 percent, according to the study.
The most overpriced market is Naples, Fla., the study said, where a single-family, median-priced home sells for $329,970, about 84 percent more than what it should cost.

Reprinted from NW Arkansas Business Journal, January 9, 2006

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Higher Prices--what do the numbers mean?

Viewing the rising prices of homes in NW Arkansas communities in the previous post, it is obvious that buyers in the coming months will face a shortage of less expensive homes and much higher prices for the homes already on the market.

A couple of other observations are also in order. It used to be that Fayetteville was the most expensive community in the area. That is changing. Bentonville now has the highest average- price and median-price homes on the market, with Fayetteville in second place and Rogers close behind.

It appears that Springdale, Bella Vista and Siloam Springs have more affordable homes on the market, but even there, prices for homes currently listed are significantly higher than what has been available in the past.

Part of the problem is that builders are not constructing so-called "starter" homes any more. The ability to purchase a new home for under $100,000 is a thing of the past. Land and development prices have skyrocketed, so what builders are doing is making a larger home and charging more money for it. Older existing homes on the low end are becoming smaller and shabbier for higher prices as well.

Since salaries are not keeping pace with the price of homes, fewer people will be able to purchase homes in the future. Owning one's place of residence may be a luxury that fewer and fewer people in NW Arkansas can afford.

One of the attractive features of Northwest Arkansas, which has made it the featured subject of "quality of life" magazine articles in the past has been the modest cost of living, along with physical beauty and a small-town ambience with all of the conveniences of living in a large urban area. This is disappearing with the exploding urbanization and higher housing costs (not to mention the high sales taxes of the NW Arkansas communities). Is this what we want?

Home Prices are Rising in NW Arkansas

Everyone is probably aware that homes are now more expensive to purchase in NW Arkansas. But how much more expensive? A look at median and average prices of homes sold in the past couple of years compared with prices of homes currently on the market can give a glimpse of what buyers can expect this spring, when looking for a home.

Bella Vista

Year/No. Homes Sold/Average Price/Median Price
2005/1495/$160,880 /$147,500
2004/1256/$150,432 /$138,900

On Mkt. Now/Average Price/Median Price
536 /$206,204 /$188,400


Year /No. Homes Sold /Average Price /Median Price
2005 /884 /$230,790 /$188,738
2004 /814 /$200,662 /$159,900

On Mkt. Now/Average Price/Median Price
629 /$313,125 /$289,900


Year /No. Homes Sold /Average Price /Median Price
2005 /1252 /$217,239 /$177,900
2004 /1188 /$194,216 /$169,650

On Mkt. Now/Average Price/Median Price
627 /$295,587 /$253,500


Year /No. Homes Sold /Average Price /Median Price
2005 /1273 /$202,508 /$161,900
2004 /1182 /$189,213 /$143,450

On Mkt. Now/Average Price/Median Price
1108 /$291,106 /$249,900


Year /No. Homes Sold /Average Price /Median Price
2005 /1368 /$181,583 /$149,900
2004 /1471 /$154,496 /$130,000

On Mkt. Now/Average Price/Median Price
653 /$235,221 /$197,900

Siloam Springs

Year /No. Homes Sold /Average Price /Median Price
2005 /475 /$134,681 /123,900
2004 /313 /$121,981 /$110,000

On Mkt Now/Average Price/Median Price
162 /$190,477 /$174,900

Source of Data: NW Arkansas MLS
Note: The Average Price is determined by dividing the value of all of the homes sold or on the market by the number of homes. The Median Price is the price of the home where the number of homes sold (or currently on the market) above the price of that home is equal to the number of homes sold (or currently on the market) below the price of that home.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Unemployment in NW Arkansas

The economy is strong in NW Arkansas. Although the rate of unemployment in September of 2005 was at 3.6 %, up 1 % from that of 2002, it was still significantly lower than the state of Arkansas as a whole and than the national unemployment rate. The unemployment rate for the state of Arkansas in September 2005 was 5.8 %, and the national unemployment rate was 5.1%.

Source: Center for Business and Economic Research, University of Arkansas.

NW Arkansas Population Growth

The Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Arkansas has done a series of studies of the economy, not only of Arkansas and the nation, but also specifically measuring economic factors in NW Arkansas. Some of their results are very interesting. In terms of population, using data from the Census Bureau, the Center estimates that the population of NW Arkansas will increase 60% by the year 2025, using 2002 as a baseline year. The 2002 population of the area was 780,541. The estimated population in 2025 (according to the Center) will be 1,253,234, which will be almost 1/3 of the population of the entire state of Arkansas in that year. Other parts of the state will also gain in population but at a lesser rate, and the SE part of Arkansas is actually losing population.

Source: U of A Center for Business and Economic Research

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Real Estate Market Report for Fayetteville, Dec. 2005

The Fayetteville market slowed considerably during December, mostly due to seasonal factors, but uncertainty in the economy and rising interest rates are also taking their toll.Inventory of homes on the market now is significantly up, even in the lower price ranges under $150,000.

Whether buyers will encounter a buyer's market or a seller's market depends entirely on the price range--the lower end is a seller's market and the high end, a buyer's.The number of sales in the past month was significantly lower in comparison to last year with only 67 homes sold in December compared with 94 in the same period last year according to the Fayetteville/Springdale Metro Area MLS. Under $100,000 there continues to be a shortage of homes for sale and a strong seller's market.

In the last year according to the Multiple Listing Service database, only 76 homes between $75,000 and $100,000 were sold, an average of just over 6 homes per month, due to a shortage of homes available. This is to be compared with 117 homes sold as recently as 2 years ago, while new "starter" homes were still being constructed in the Fayetteville area. Now there are only 18 homes on the market, of which only 2 are under 5 years old. Buyers who wish to purchase a home in Fayetteville under $100,000 must be ready (pre-qualified or pre-approved by a lender) to move quickly and make an offer on "the good ones" as they come on the market.

Between $100,000 and $150,000 these trends also exist. Currently there is a 2-month supply of homes of all ages from new to historical homes, up from 1.5-month's supply last month. In absolute numbers, 355 homes were sold in this price range in the last year, an average of 28 per month. Now there are 60 houses on the market, of which 2 are new and 7 homes less than 5 years old are for sale. Last year, the new homes in this price range have been primarily in the new Salem Meadows, Salem Village, and Sage Meadows subdivisions west of town, but these areas have now become built out. The townhouses for the University student market in an area called Skyler Place, which were plentiful last year, have alsot been sold. There is a new development of townhomes off Hwy. 16W, called Chevaux, listed at approximately $130K.

The situation improves markedly above $150,000 as the supply has jumped greatly with 98 homes currently on the market, about a 3.5-month supply. Almost 1/2 of these (44) are new homes. This is due to continuing development of several subdivisions in this price range, mostly on the west side of town: A new subdivision called Persimmon Place off Hwy 16W and Phase 2 of Fairfield. There are also some new condos near the mall in a subdivision, called Bellafonte Gardens, in this price range.

Between $200,000 and $300,000 there is an even better supply with 223 homes currently on the market, approximately a 10-month supply, a buyer's market. The new homes are in a variety of subdivisions, giving buyers in this price range more choices. For townhomes, there is Benton Ridge in SE Fayetteville as well as Bellafont Gardens on Zion Rd. near the Mall, and for single family homes, there is a new phase of Stonebridge Meadows under construction (24) and a new subdivision called Cross Keys west of I-540 (6). Existing subdivisions west of town also have homes in this price range--Clabber Creek (16), Legacy Pointe (7), and Fairfield (11) .

In the $300,000-$400,000 price range, there is about a 12-month supply, about 3/4 of which are new and newer homes. On homes over $400,000 the supply is also more than ample, about an 11-month supply. In terms of absolute numbers there are 102 homes on the market between $300,000 and $400,000 (62 new and another 18 under 5 years old) and 100 homes over $400,000, of which 46 are new homes and 26 are under 5 years old. In addition, prices have increased; new construction in Covington Park now starts at about $128 per square foot, and, depending on amenities, new homes in some of the gated communities east of town cost about $140 per square foot and up. Another promising area on the high end is the phenomenal new Clear Creek golf course community in Johnson. And in east Fayetteville out Hwy 45, a new subdivision called Waterford now has about 50 one-acre lots for sale at $100K each.

Traditionally the nearby small towns of Farmington and Elkins have provided lower-cost homes than were available in Fayetteville. However, now Farmington is just as expensive as Fayetteville, and homes in Elkins which are closer to Fayetteville are rising in price. On a positive note, with the completion of I-540, other communities are beginning to become options for affordable housing, namely West Fork and Greenland, south of Fayetteville. Prairie Grove, a charming small town west of Farmington about 20 minutes from Fayetteville, is experiencing some new development and presents possibilities for moderately priced houses.