Local home sales drop slightly in February





Single-family home sales for February in Garden City were down by two units from a year ago, according to the most recent figures available from the Garden City Board of Realtors. However, spring sales are expected to be strong.

Sixteen units were sold in February of this year, compared to 18 in February 2012.

Of those 16 sold, three were one to three bedrooms, three were three-bedroom homes and 10 were four-plus bedrooms. Average price of the homes was $122,681, average days on the market was 144 and the majority of the financing was cash, according to Garden City Board of Realtors information.

Last year, of the 18 homes sold in February, two featured one to three bedrooms, five were three-bedroom and 11 had four or more bedrooms. Average price was $137,571 and average days on the market was 123. The majority of the financing was conventional.

Vicki Bulkley of Heritage Realty said spring is always the best time for home sales, likely due to a combination of nicer weather and the end of the school year.

"Right now stuff is flying off the shelves. It's a very strong market right now," said Bulkley, Zone 8 vice president for the Kansas Association of Realtors. She keeps in contact with the board of Realtors in Garden City, Dodge City, the Southwest Kansas Board in Liberal, Pratt and Medicine Lodge, which is the Southern Plains Board, to keep them in the loop and transfer reports to the state.

The market seems to be "well rounded" right now with people moving in, upsizing or downsizing. All price ranges are "selling pretty decently. Of course, the really expensive ones take longer just because the customer base isn't as big," Bulkley said.

In all price ranges in Finney County, out of Finney County, in Garden City and Holcomb, there are 101 houses on the market. As of Tuesday, 65 houses were under contract, Bulkley said.

There were four houses on the market in the $50,000 and under price range; 37 in the $100,001 to $150,000 price range; 29 homes in the $100,001 to $150,000 range; 14 in the $150,001 to $200,000 price range; and 16 homes ranging in price from $200,000 to $500,000. She said.

Jamie Biera, a Realtor with Regan & Co. Real Estate, agreed the housing market is busy this time of year. But another factor is "very low long-term interest rates," which make homes more affordable because it makes the monthly payments lower.

Linda Adams, broker/owner of Adams Real Estate, said she's been very busy and stays that way year-round. "We're very busy. I very much need to hire agents. There's a shortage of listings" and many buyers, Adams said.

Adams, who also owns rental property, said all the rentals — including her's — are full as well, and it's not just here but all over western Kansas.

"I think they figure we're 500 housing units short right now. That would be every kind of home. ... We could use more of just about everything," Adams said.

For developers, it's hard to get enough profit out of building new rental property to encourage building, and even with the housing shortage, it's difficult to sell new homes because existing residences are less expensive, said Adams, who has sold real estate for 15 years and had her own company since 2006.

Another key factor in home sales is low interest rates.

"Interest rates are still exceptionally good. It's harder to get people qualified (for loans). You have to have a higher credit score than you used to, so it's a little more difficult in that direction," Bulkley said.

Adams agreed it's getting harder to obtain home loans because there are more requirements on buyers and the homes themselves. "Appraisers now sometimes require things to be done to homes before they can sell," such as installing a railing or fixing peeling paint.

She said this is being done to keep the housing bubble from occurring again. "There wasn't one here, so there was no bubble to burst," Adams said.

Biera had a different take. He said it's not as tough to get a home loan now as in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, but getting a loan can be a case-by-case proposition.

"Now you don't have to have perfect credit or zero debt," Biera said. There are also Federal Housing Administration loans available with a 3 1/2 percent downpayment.

And if people are waiting for things to improve or interest rates to dip lower, Biera said, "They're making a mistake because now's the time."

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