Triangle home sales rise 14 percent in January

dbracken@newsobserver.comFebruary 17, 2014 

HOMESALES02.NE.031412.CCS

Triangle home sales are up 34 percent for May.

CHRIS SEWARD — cseward@newsobserver.com

Triangle home sales rose 14 percent in January compared with the same period a year ago, but there are signs that the market may be cooling off.

Pending sales during the month were down 1 percent, the first time they have declined on a year-over-year basis in 31 months, Triangle Multiple Listing Services data show.

Few expect the Triangle housing market to have another year like 2013, when homes sales rose 24 percent. Most expect the monthly double-digit increases to diminish as the year progresses, with annual sales growth this year in the low single digits.

Stacey Anfindsen, a Cary appraiser who analyzes MLS data for area real estate agents, said the region’s economy simply isn’t creating enough jobs at the moment to maintain that kind of sales momentum.

“If you only have 2 to 3 percent job growth it certainly doesn’t translate into 24 percent sales growth,” he said. “ ... Those percentage increases were driven by pent-up demand and other stuff.”

Still, the market has shown itself to be resilient, particularly during the winter months when activity typically drops off significantly.

“Our office was just as busy in December as we were in November and October, and January just picked up from those December numbers,” said Steve Nicewarner, an agent with Go Realty in Durham.

The biggest challenge, Nicewarner said, is the lack of homes for sale.

“A nice problem to have, relatively speaking,” he said.

There were just 6,435 homes for sale at the end of January in Durham, Johnston, Orange and Wake counties, down 16 percent since the end of October and off 7 percent from the same period in 2013.

“We’ve got to figure out a way to get houses on the market because I think demand is going to be close to where it was last year,” Anfindsen said. “If you still have inventory decreasing, it’s not going to be a calm year.”

The lack of inventory is making it easier for certain homeowners to sell. The average time on the market for the homes that sold in January was 87 days, compared with 115 days in January 2013.

“Listings that are priced correctly and are prepared for the market sell really quickly, and the inventory’s really tight on those,” Nicewarner said.

Home prices also continue to rise, a trend that should eventually entice more people to put their houses on the market. The average price of the homes that sold in January was $251,100, up 10 percent from the same period last year.

But there remains a sizable number of homeowners who are underwater, meaning they owe more on their mortgage than their houses are worth.

“It’s a statement of how far things fell in 2008, 2009, 2010 – that we’ve had a good two-year run and we’re still not back up to that point,” Nicewarner said.

Bracken: 919-829-4548; Twitter: @brackendavid

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