Tyler area home sales spike more than 16 percent

TYLER (TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) - Home sales soared last month, coming in at the second highest for January in the Tyler area's history.

There were 197 homes sold last month, a 16.57 percent spike from the same time a year ago, according to figures released Wednesday by the Greater Tyler Association of Realtors.

The only January that beat it was January 2007, when 200 houses were sold here, Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University records show.

"The first thing to come to mind is consumer confidence is much higher," Jonathan Wolf, of RE/MAX Tyler, said of why January's home sales were higher than previous years. "The interest rates are still low to kind of help the buyer with their confidence."

Wolf, former president of the Greater Tyler Association of Realtors, said January and February tend to be a little slower for home sales than the rest of the year. But tax refunds coming in could influence people to buy a home, and there is sometimes a rush for people to sell a house before the end of the year for tax benefits. A few closings from those end-of-year sales could trickle in to January, he said.

"I think people are moving, and we're still seeing a growth in the senior sector," Wolf said.

Senior citizens are buying garden homes, town homes and other low maintenance properties close to hospitals, he said. "They get snatched up fast," and there are a limited number of those in town, he added.

The median home price for January was $128,000, an increase of 2.4 percent from the same time last year, when the median price was $125,000.

Laura Adkinson, Realtor for RealEdge Real Estate, also attributes the jump in home sales to consumer confidence, low interest rates and inventory being down. "We're seeing a great turn around," she said.

Ms. Adkinson, chairwoman of the Greater Tyler Association of Realtors Public Relations Committee, said people also are looking to the future, when interest rates will rise, and they are jumping on board before that happens.

She said a lot of new home construction also has boosted consumer confidence.

Brent Conaway, a partner in Conaway Homes, said his home building business predicted 20 percent more new home sales last year than in 2011.

"We actually witnessed that," he said, adding that they are projecting another 20 percent in growth this year over 2012.

He believes a good job market in the area, confidence improving and less inventory have contributed to the better home sales.

"There's a lot more new growth out there," he said.

Wolf said because there is less home inventory than past years, when something comes on the market, people jump on it. He said that tends to favor the seller.

The Tyler area's home inventory stood at 10 months in January, according to the latest figures available from Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University. That is down from 11.7 months a year ago.

Home inventory is how long, based on the past year's sales rate, it would take to clear out existing inventory, with no more homes introduced into the market.

Smith County saw nine foreclosures in January, according to RealtyTrac. There were seven foreclosures in December and 12 in November.

As an agent who has handled several foreclosure sales in this area, Archie Reynolds, Realtor with Prudential Preferred in Tyler, said he is once again focusing his business on straight sales since there are much fewer foreclosures here.

Ms. Adkinson believes consumer education also is playing a part in the upswing in home sales. "After a downturn in the market, consumers have become more educated, and it comes to play that home ownership still shows to be the best investment one can make."


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