Durham County home prices up, closed sales down in February

Mar. 12, 2013 @ 06:39 PM

The average Durham County home sales price was up 10 percent in February, while total closed sales were down, according to Triangle Multiple Listing Service data released Tuesday.

A smaller inventory of homes on the market for sale helped push prices up, according to multiple real estate officials, and also was cited as a factor in a drop in closed sales in the month. Realtors and others were optimistic for continued improvement.

“I’m starting to hear stories of multiple offers,” said Nick Tennyson, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Durham, Orange & Chatham Counties. “And people are beginning to have the experience of seeing the house they wanted to buy, selling. So I think the market is starting to move back up.”

The average sales price was up 10 percent to $187,522 in the month, while the median sales price was up 13 percent to $171,214.

The total dollar volume of sales was up 5.2 percent in the month to $36.8 million.

However, there was a 5.3 percent decline in the total number of closed sales in the county in February. The total number of closed sales in the month was 196, compared to 207 in the month last year.

That was the first month that closed sales were down in a single month year-over-year since January of last year. For all of 2012, the county’s sales were up 22.5 percent compared with the prior year.

Jon Fletcher, a Realtor with Fonville Morisey Realty in Durham, said he believes the decline is due to an inventory shortage.

The inventory of homes for sale in Durham County was down 15.3 percent to 1,494 homes in February compared to the month last year, according to Triangle Multiple Listing Service data.

 “We are constantly getting emails from agents who have buyers looking for properties that just aren’t on the market right now,” Fletcher said. “I don’t know if people have been, have been hanging on until spring time,” he added.

Tennyson said the inventory of new homes has been impacted as small-volume builders have been having issues getting loans to build spec houses.

“In previous cycles, small-volume builders would, by now, have long since been able to find somebody who would give them a loan for a spec house,” he said. “I think that it’s a little like asking somebody to sell a product without a store. A small-volume builder needs to have a house up to see what he or she is able to produce.”

Although Tennyson said new home construction is and has been a shrinking percentage of the market, he was also positive overall.

He also added that a single month’s decline in closed home sales is not necessarily indicative of a trend.

“We are clearly overtime, we are doing better,” he said. “We’ve had enough months coming off the bottom to believe we are actually on a trend,” he added. “Was February an indication that the trend is going to flatten out again – we won’t know until May. We’ll have to see what the line keeps doing from there.”

Donna DeLong, president of the Durham Association of Realtors, said she expects that with the low inventory, prices will rise.

“We’re seeing that sellers are favoring the price increases, and are moving forward to market their homes,” she said.

Fletcher said he’s starting to see activity pick up. He said there is typically more activity in the spring, while the fourth quarter is slower during the holidays.

“Personally, I believe … we were way past the bottom and everyone is on the way back up,” he said. “Interest rates are still low; it’s a great time to buy a house.”