Local Home Sales Pace Picks Up

Homes sales around Montgomery remained well below 2007 levels in March, but the pace picked up compared to February, pointing to a seasonal shift in sales.According to the Alabama Center for Real Estate at the University of Alabama, Realtors sold 416 homes in the Montgomery area last month, more than 100 fewer than last year, but more than the 340 sold in February.

Those numbers mirrored state numbers, which saw sales down almost 27 percent compared to March 2007 but up almost 11 percent compared to February.

Charline Mathis, president of the Montgomery Area Association of Realtors, said the month-to-month numbers indicate that the market is rebounding from its recent free fall.

“They are up a little, and it is seasonal,” she said. “But we are thinking this is the beginning of the beginning. We think we will see things start to change a little bit.”

Montgomery also followed the state trend with houses selling for less and staying on the market longer.

Grayson Glaze, ACRE executive director, said in a statement issued along with the monthly report that the agency expected lower numbers than last March and that should be taken in context.

“The preceding March was red-hot and represented the second-best on record at 5,405 units for the month,” he said of statewide home sales.

Montgomery’s total listings inched up slightly in March compared to February (3,416 compared to 3,391), but that is a 14.4 percent increase over March 2007.

The area’s average home price also climbed slightly compared to February but was off sharply compared to 2007. The average

Montgomery home sold for $156,390 in March, up from $150,618 in February but down from $171,635 a year earlier.

“We are coming back to reality,” Mathis said of area home costs.

Homes sold faster in Montgomery last month compared to February, bucking a statewide trend. A home in Montgomery sold after an average of 93 days on the market in March, down from 123 days in February. It took an average of 81 days to sell a home in Montgomery a year ago.

Statewide, it took an average of 136 days to sell a house last month, up from 124 days in February and 134 days a year ago.

Glaze said that the industry will remain soft in Alabama in the second quarter, but he predicted the recovery could start by mid-year.

“The Alabama real estate market during the second quarter of 2008 will continue to reflect a period of correction as demand continues to remain weak when compared to historic levels,” he said.

He said contributing factors in 2008 that may lead to momentum and long-term stability in the Alabama housing market include improved credit environment, realistic buyer and seller home value expectations and continued improvement in the levels of housing affordability. All should combine to attract more buyers to the market and reduce the abundance of inventory.

By Cosby Woodruff

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