Douglas County home sales took a tumble in May, despite mortgage interest rates near record lows and plenty of homes lingering on the market.
Buyers closed 230 purchases of single-family homes last month in Douglas County, according to a report from the county appraiser's office. That was down 18 percent from 279 sales in May 2004.
The decline comes even as plenty of people continue looking for homes, visiting open houses and exploring options to purchase, said Lisa Ramler, president of the Lawrence Board of Realtors.
She just figures that people may be waiting on the sidelines, hoping that mortgage interest rates might inch lower.
"Sometimes people wait to see how low they're going to go," said Ramler, a Realtor for Realty Executives Hedges Real Estate. "Once they start going up, you may see a surge."
Interest rates averaged 5.63 percent last week on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, according to Freddie Mac. Weekly averages ranged from 5.77 percent to 5.65 percent in May; the average was 6.32 percent a year ago.
Countywide, sales had started this year on a positive note, with first-quarter sales totals rising 4 percent above the 2004 pace. But declines in April and, now, May, have left this year's sales 6.5 percent behind last year's pace.
Average prices paid for new and existing homes in Douglas County during May, and change from a year earlier:
- Lawrence: $178,593, up 0.6 percent.
- North Lawrence: $125,238, up 9.2 percent.
- Baldwin: $150,543, down 13.7 percent.
- Eudora: $133,966, down 13.9 percent.
- Rural: $228,613, up 5.1 percent.
- Total: $175,146, down 0.5 percent.
Sales for Lawrence are off 7.6 percent so far this year, continuing a decline that began last summer.
June 2004 was the last time more homes sold in Lawrence than had moved during the same month a year earlier.
"It's like any business that ebbs and flows," Ramler said. "You're not always going to be higher and higher and higher."
Housing starts also are lagging in Lawrence, as builders increasingly find themselves left with homes priced above $300,000, said Mike McGrew, vice chairman for Coldwell Banker McGrew Real Estate in Lawrence.
McGrew said that while such extra supply may be good for buyers, who have several locations and styles to choose from, such advantages haven't translated into the sales numbers.
"Consumers start to feel like there's no urgent reason to go do something," McGrew said.
Sales of new and existing homes in May were down from a year earlier in five of the six markets tracked by the appraiser's office. Here are the May results, and change from a year earlier:
¢ Lawrence: 193, down from 219.
¢ Eudora: 13, down from 25.
¢ Rural: eight, down from 13.
¢ North Lawrence: eight, up from six.
¢ Baldwin: seven, down from 16.
¢ Lecompton: one, up from zero.