Seller’s Market Returns!

When Mary Sunderman put the house where she’d lived with her recently deceased mother on the market in late February, she figured she’d have plenty of time to move her belongings into a storage unit.

“I rented the unit out for three months, thinking the house wouldn’t sell that fast,” she said.

Instead, the five-bedroom home on South Fairview Avenue went for the $169,900 list price four days later, and Sunderman — who didn’t need such a big home anymore — realized she needed to find a place for herself fast.

After looking at 10 homes in one day, she outbid another party for a three-bedroom home on South Timbercreek Road in Springfield the following weekend — picking it up for the list price of $92,900. That home had been on the market since October.

It was a whirlwind week.

“My head was spinning,” Sunderman said.

While four days are on the market is still far from the norm — Sunderman noted that two homes on her parents’ street have been listed for more than a year and wonders if her list price was too low — the area’s housing market has seen positive signs since bottoming out in 2011, mirroring national trends and reaching a milestone just last month.

While terms like “buyer’s market” and “seller’s market” often get thrown around haphazardly, there is a formal definition. The National Association of Realtors defines a seller’s market as when there is less than six months of supply in the housing inventory. In other words, if no houses were added to the number of listings on the market today, it would take six months or less to sell out.

In March 2012, according to the Greater Springfield Board of Realtors’ Multiple Listing Service — which covers Greene, Christian and Webster counties, in addition to data input by agents in other neighboring counties — inventory was at 8.2 months. After getting as low as seven months last August, it kicked off 2012 at 8.9 months.

In May, however, it hit the magic number.

“Where Springfield is at is right at six months of inventory,” Jessica Hickok, association executive/CEO of the Greater Springfield Board of Realtors, said in an interview last week.

It’s a somewhat symbolic benchmark that could bring hope to those in the area who elected to stay in a home rather than sell it for a loss, or who watched homes for sale on their block sit for months despite prices being lowered and lowered.

Average sale price in the area covered by the service peaked at $147,666 in 2007, according to a 2012 report provided by the association. The number of residential units sold peaked in 2006 at 8,612, as did total residential sales volume of $1.23 billion.

The ensuing years saw a steady decline in all three figures.

“2011 was really when we hit bottom,” Hickok said.

Comparing that year’s data to peak figures, average sale price declined approximately 17 percent to $123,046; the number of units sold fell 37 percent to 5,395; total sales volume declined 46 percent to just under $664 million.

In 2012, those numbers increased to $128,765 for sales price, 6,062 units and almost $780 million in volume. They’re still far from peak levels, but 2013 has been encouraging — “fantastic,” as Hickok put it — so far. The 651 homes sold in May within the area covered by the MLS was a more than 10 percent increase from April.

“Anytime there’s a green arrow going up next to my stats, that’s a good thing,” Hickok said.

Data for other area counties from annual reports prepared by the association show similar trends — although the declines in the late 2000s were generally more noticeable.

In Polk County, the fourth quarter of 2012 saw the 55 homes sold spend an average of 145 days on the market and go for an average of $92,222. Comparatively, the 75 homes sold in the fourth quarter of 2006 spent an average of 111 days on the market and sold for $130,700.

In Dallas County, 29 homes sold in the fourth quarter in 2012, spent an average of 109 days on the market and sold for an average of $64,915. In the fourth quarter of 2006, those numbers were 29 homes, 106 days and $123,600.

In addition to existing home sales, home construction also appears to be on the rise locally. As of Friday, 158 single-family home building permits had been issued for the unincorporated areas of Greene County, compared to 94 at the same time last year, according to Greene County code official David O’Dell.

A similar pace in the second half of the year would put the county at about 300 issued permits, compared to a low of 193 in 2011 and more than 1,200 in both 2003 and 2005.

While a clear cycle is evident, the Springfield area has avoided the massive boom and bust associated with housing prices in places such as Florida or California.

“Being in the Midwest, we’re relatively stable no matter what,” Hickok said.

And Springfield generally fares better than points elsewhere in Missouri. In March 2013, the latest month for which data is available from real estate tracker CoreLogic, the Springfield foreclosure rate dropped to 0.82 percent, compared to 1.19 percent in March 2012. The statewide rate in March 2013 was 1.07 percent, according to CoreLogic, while the national rate was 3.49 percent.

The foreclosure rate measures the percentage of loans that are in some stage of the foreclosure process.

Nationally, total existing home sales increased 4.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.18 million in May from 4.97 million in April, the National Association of Realtors said this week. That's the highest rate since November 2009 and almost 13 percent above a year. The national housing market dipped to a 5.1 month supply from 5.2 months in April, and 6.5 months a year ago.

On South Timbercreek Road, Sunderman has moved everything out of the storage unit into her new home, and she said she made a good choice, despite the hasty decision.

“It had a good aura about it when I walked in.”


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