There are some ‘interesting dynamics’ going on in residential real estate market

Realtor says it's a seller's market in Macon.

Realtor Joanna "Jo Jo" Jones says housing inventory is low.
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Realtor Joanna "Jo Jo" Jones says housing inventory is low.

As houses in Middle Georgia were listed for sale this year, some sellers got multiple offers, sold their homes in a few weeks and in some cases sold their homes for higher than the listed prices.

There are several reasons this is going on, but generally it’s because the number of houses for sale, also known as inventory, is down. When inventory is low, it’s more of a seller’s market.

The situation is causing home prices to slowly inch upward, which is a good thing for the economy. Then as more homeowners put up their houses up for sale, buyers will have more options, and the pendulum swings a little more to the center.

“I was just looking at the raw number of closings (in the Bibb County metro area) and they are up year-to-date about 18 percent just in dollar volume over last year … which is a pretty significant number,” said Steve Solomon, co-owner and broker with Sheridan & Solomon & Associates. “And also there is an increase in the number of units sold.”

We’ve had multiple offers in many cases ... along with properties selling very quickly.

Steve Solomon, co-owner and broker with Sheridan & Solomon & Associates

The total closed volume of homes so far this year was about $26 million, according to a market report based on the Middle Georgia Multiple Listing Service in Macon, provided by Fickling & Co. This is already higher than the total closed volume at the end of 2016, which was about $21.2 million.

When looking at the listings by price range, much of the increase has been in the lower ranges, from zero to $100,000 and the upper end ranges of $500,000 and higher.

“A lot of people in the mid-to-higher range priced homes have still been under water some since the market crash,” said Robert Binion, senior vice president, managing broker with Fickling & Co. in Macon. “This is really beginning to correct itself and people are no longer upside down in their mortgages in those price ranges.”

Elaine Lee, senior vice president and broker with Fickling & Co. in Houston County, said she’s seen similar growth in that area. She provided data from the Central Georgia Multiple Listing Service.

“Resale unit sales and values for Houston County continue to steadily increase. Year-to-date resale units sold is up 9 percent and volume is up 15 percent,” Lee said. “We are still experiencing a low inventory of homes to sell — currently at a three-month supply.”

The average days on the market for all sales is 68 days in Houston County, which is low compared to 106 days on the market in 2009, she said.

The housing inventory is low is because “some people feel that they won’t be able to find what they are looking for, therefore, they are not putting their current home on the market,” she said. “And some homeowners feel they can’t sell for what they need out of their house to be able to move up.”

Solomon agreed, adding that a big factor “is the fact that things are selling so the inventory doesn’t build. It’s turning over.”

Even though there are less listings actively on the market now than the same time last year, more houses are being sold, he said.

“So instead of listing 100 houses in January and 50 of them selling and listing 100 more in February and 20 of them selling, we’re selling 80 of them in January and 50 of them in February,” he said. “So inventory is not building over the year. It’s turning over.”

Building permits are up 18 percent.

Elaine Lee, senior vice president, broker with Fickling & Co. in Houston County

New construction sales — a segment of the industry that has lagged in recent years — is up in Houston County by 14 percent over last year, “and remains strong,” Lee said. “Building permits are up 18 percent.”

New construction in Bibb County in both active listings and pending sales were up year-to-date in September at 75 and 36, respectively, from December which showed 69 active listings and 29 pending sales.

“As the resale inventory gets lower, this becomes a better market for builders to build new construction homes due to lack of inventory in current existing home sales,” Binion said.

Statewide, house volume sold and prices are up over last year.

The number of homes sold in Georgia during 2016 was 201,900 compared to 215,300 in 2017, for the 12 months ending in May, according to a regional report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Also, the average price for the same time period was $203,000 in 2016 compared to $212,400 in 2017, a 5-percent increase.

Real estate professionals often say “all real estate is local,” and it appears the Middle Georgia real estate market is in a little better position than the nationwide market.

Nationally, existing home sales were up slightly in September after three straight monthly declines, according to a news release from the National Association of Realtors.

“But ongoing supply shortages and recent hurricanes muted overall activity and caused sales to fall back on an annual basis,” it said.

Existing home sales inched up 0.7 percent to 5.39 million in September from 5.35 million in August, the release said. These numbers include single-family, town homes, condominiums and co-ops.

“Home sales in recent months remain at their lowest level of the year and are unable to break through, despite considerable buyer interest in most parts of the country,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “Realtors this fall continue to say the primary impediments stifling sales growth are the same as they have been all year: not enough listings — especially at the lower end of the market — and fast-rising prices that are straining the budgets of prospective buyers.”

But nationally, homes also are selling quickly. In September, 48 percent of the homes sold were on the market for less than a month, the report said.

Low mortgage interest rates are helping the market. The average rate for a 30-year conventional, fixed-rate mortgage was 3.81 percent in September which is the lowest since November 2016, the release said.

“We’ve seen some interesting dynamics in our marketplace coupled with low interest rates,” Solomon said. “We’ve had multiple offers in many cases ... along with properties selling very quickly. … literally in a week or in a couple of days with multiple offers depending on the area and the price.

“Last year we were very busy and we continue to see an increase. Our business is up. We feel very good about the market.”

Linda S. Morris: 478-744-4223, @MidGaBiz