High Country Association of REALTORS News

August real estate sales highest in 13 years

The local housing market was sizzling in August, as Realtor sales were the highest recorded in the High Country area in at least 13 years.

Rising mortgage rates didn’t deter buyers. Neither did prices, with the average closing price the highest in eight years.

There were 292 homes worth $85.8 million sold in August, as recorded by the High Country Multiple Listing Service (MLS). It tracks Realtor sales in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties.

That was by far the most homes sold in the four-county area since at least 2005. The next highest monthly total was 244, recorded in October 2016.

Since 2005, there have been 12 months when MLS sales surpassed 210 homes. Two of those occurred this year (August and July). Three others occurred in 2017 (August, September and October).

The average sold price in August - total value divided by all homes sold - was $293,848. That was the highest average sold price recorded for a month since November 2007 ($294,848).

The average sold price was impacted by closings on the higher-end market. There were nine homes sold for more than $1 million, including three for more than $1.7 million.

Market activity in the High Country has been strong all year. Overall home sales are up 15 percent compared to this time in 2017. The average sale price is up 4 percent.

Meanwhile, inventory levels declined slightly. There were 2,044 active listings within the MLS as of September 17. There were about 2,072 at the start of August.

The brisk business has continued while interest rates have remained near highs for the year. The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate was 4.6 percent as of September 13, according to loan giant Freddie Mac. The average 15-year fixed rate was 4.06 percent.

The 30-year rate surpassed 4.5 percent in mid-April and has bounced between that and 4.6 percent since. It has increased slightly each of the past three weeks.

“Mortgage rates are currently 0.82 percent higher than a year ago, which is the biggest year-over-year increase since May 2014,” said Freddie Mac in a statement. “Overall, this spectacular stretch of solid job gains and low unemployment should help keep homebuyer interest elevated. However, mortgage rates will likely also move up, as the Federal Reserve considers short-term rate hikes this month and at future meetings.”

In contrast to the High Country area, nationally home sales are slowing. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported both pending home sales and existing home sales declined in July, the last month for which national statistics are available.

Pending home sales decreased 0.7 percent in July, the seventh consecutive month they have fallen on an annual basis. Existing home sales were also down 0.7 percent in July, the fourth straight month of declining sales.

“Led by a notable decrease in closings in the Northeast, existing home sales trailed off again last month, sliding to their slowest pace since February 2016 at 5.21 million,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “Too many would-be buyers are either being priced out, or are deciding to postpone their search until more homes in their price range come onto the market.”