Real Estate News

Triangle home sales rise 11% in first quarter

Triangle home sales rose 11 percent in the first quarter, driven by a strong surge of buying in March.

Home sales in Durham, Johnston, Orange and Wake counties increased 20 percent in March compared to the same month a year ago, Triangle Multiple Listing Service data show.

The uptick likely reflects some pent-up demand after several months of harsh winter weather in the Triangle.

While there appears to be plenty of buyers in the market, they continue to chase after a small number of houses for sale.

Inventory levels, which are already at historically low levels, were down 16 percent in the quarter, with the number of existing homes for sale down 19 percent. March was the seventh straight month in which inventory levels fell on a year-over-year basis.

The rise in sales and falling inventory are helping to shorten the time it takes for people to sell their homes. The average time on the market for the homes that sold in the first quarter was 67 days, compared to 85 days during the same period in 2014.

The question that continues to hover over the Triangle market: At what point will conditions improve enough to entice more homeowners to put their houses on the market?

One common explanation for the lack of inventory is that a certain percentage of Triangle homeowners remain unable to sell because they are underwater – meaning they owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth – or they are simply unsatisfied with what buyers are currently willing to pay.

Stacey Anfindsen, a Cary appraiser who analyzes Triangle MLS data, said another factor may be that homeowners who are looking to downsize or move to a larger home simply can’t find anything to buy.

“I think there’s a lot more sellers out there who would like to move but can’t find what they want versus just ‘I’m trapped here because I’m underwater,’ ” he said.

Home prices have been rising steadily in recent years, but the increases have thus far had little impact on inventory levels.

The number of existing homes for sale is now 57 percent below where it was four years ago. During that same period, the average sales price of the existing homes that have sold has increased 15 percent.

The average overall sales price of the homes that sold in the first quarter was $253,915, up 2 percent from the same period last year.

Bracken: 919-829-4548;

Twitter: @brackendavid