Triangle home sales up 28 percent as inventory levels keep dropping

dbracken@newsobserver.comApril 15, 2013 

Triangle home sales increased 28 percent in the first quarter, but the increase in activity failed to entice more owners to put their homes up for sale.

There were 4,558 homes sold in Durham, Johnston, Orange and Wake counties during the first three months of the year, Triangle Multiple Listing Services data show. Showings increased 16 percent over that period and pending sales were up 25 percent.

Inventory levels, meanwhile, continued to decline at rates that have left many experts scratching their heads.

There were just 7,669 homes on the market at the end of March, down 21 percent compared to the first quarter of 2012. The Triangle now has a four-month supply of homes on the market at the current pace of sales, down from a seven-month supply a year ago.

“The inventory, it just can’t continue to do that,” said Stacey Anfindsen, a Cary appraiser who analyzes MLS data for area real estate agents.

The combination of historically low inventory levels and more buyers in the market has created a dynamic where sought-after homes quickly receive multiple offers while others that are in need of work languish on the market for months.

Ed Willer, a broker with Prudential York Simpson Underwood in Raleigh, said a young couple he’s now representing found a house in Wake Forest over the weekend that was in “impeccable” condition.

“I called the agent yesterday and wrote up the offer, and we were one of five offers on that particular house this weekend,” he said. “That’s how hot it is.”

Anfindsen said the shrinking inventory reflects the fact that while the Triangle housing market is improving, prices haven’t risen enough to persuade significant numbers of owners to put their homes on the market.

By most measurements, Triangle home prices have been flat or up just slightly over the past year. The average price of the homes that sold in the first quarter was $230,000, up 3 percent from a year ago, according to MLS.

While that is below the double-digit price increases being recorded in some other markets, it’s in line with how Triangle home prices have performed historically.

The new home market typically drives trends in the overall market, and Anfindsen said there are signs that builders are now able to hold the line on pricing more than in recent years.

The percentage of new homes in the MLS that experienced a price drop was 13 percent in the first quarter, down from 30 percent a year ago. And just 15 percent of the price segments for new homes now have an oversupply of homes, down from 60 percent two years ago.

“Eventually, that’s going to reflect in resale prices,” Anfindsen said.

Bracken: 919-829-4548

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