New reports show there were signs of a rebound in the Lawrence housing market during the first half of 2010.
Now, questions turn to whether the bounce will continue in the second half of the year following the expiration of a federal program to stimulate home purchases.
A new report from the Lawrence Board of Realtors shows Douglas County home sales were up 12 percent from the first half of 2009. A report out of Lawrence City Hall also shows single-family home construction increased by 37 percent.
But already there are signs of a downturn following the June 30 expiration of a federal program that gave tax credits to many homebuyers. Sales in July were down 38 percent compared to July 2009.
That drop was expected, said Steve LaRue, president of the Lawrence Board of Realtors. But he expects buyer activity to pick up again by October as consumers become cautiously more optimistic.
“I feel encouraged going forward,” LaRue said. “We have some foundation under the market where I don’t believe we’ll be sinking anymore.”
Here’s a look at the specific numbers:
• 856 home sales were recorded for the first half of the year, up from 763 during the same period of 2009.
• Sales of newly built homes had the largest percentage increase of any category, rising by 39 percent. A total of 74 new homes were sold, up from 53.
• Average selling prices for newly built homes, though, declined by 15 percent. The average price was $232,647, down from $275,208 a year ago. LaRue said builders have adjusted to the market and no longer are building $350,000 to $400,000 homes, unless they are custom-ordered homes.
• The average selling price for all homes — both newly built and existing — increased by 1.5 percent for the first half. The average price was recorded at $182,070 versus $179,339 a year earlier.
• Builders started 80 new single-family homes in Lawrence during the first half of the year. That’s up from 58 during the first half of 2009. But the numbers are still well below Lawrence’s historical rate of home construction, when builders routinely constructed more than 300 single family homes per year.