It seems 2011 was the year for sitting — or perhaps cowering — in your house, not buying a new one.
Lawrence home sales declined by 14.7 percent in 2011 from the previous year, and sales of newly constructed homes plummeted by nearly 45 percent for the year, according to recently released figures from the Lawrence Board of Realtors.
“It is still the economy, and in particular people lost some confidence in the economy and Congress,” said Gary Nuzum, a senior vice president with McGrew Real Estate in Lawrence. “Everything that went on during the year just put people in a do-nothing mode.”
The new numbers also created questions about whether the market is poised to turn around. Sales in December 2011 were down 24.7 percent compared to December 2010 totals. The local numbers are in contrast to national reports. The National Association of Realtors reported that December sales of existing homes were up 3.6 percent compared to December 2010.
Realtors said the local real estate market did deteriorate considerably in the second half of the year.
“The fall was definitely slower than we were anticipating,” said Oliver Minnis, president of the Lawrence Board of Realtors and an agent with Stephens Real Estate. “As slow as the fall was, it is positive that we had the totals that we did. There wasn’t any real sense of urgency with buyers last year, and that feeds on itself.”
In terms of totals, the report found:
• Nearly 200 fewer homes were sold in the Lawrence area than in 2010. Home sales totaled 1,058 for the year, down from 1,240 in 2010 — or a decline of 14.7 percent. The numbers also are down from 2009 totals, when 1,253 sales were recorded.
• Sales of newly built homes continued to reach new lows in 2011. Only 64 newly built homes were sold in 2011, down from 115 in 2010 — or a decline of 44.3 percent.
• The year ended on a sourer note than 2010. At this time last year, real estate agents had reason for optimism. Home sales in 2010 were down just 1 percent from 2009 totals. And sales of newly built homes had shown signs of life, increasing by nearly 20 percent from 2009 totals.
• Lower home sales have not resulted in lower selling prices. The average selling price for 2011 was $185,095, up 2.6 percent from 2010’s mark of $180,339. The median sales price has held steady at $158,000. This data, though, runs counter to what the Douglas County Appraiser’s office is seeing through its sales data. The appraiser is predicting a general decline in appraised values. His office currently is setting those tax values, and change of value notices will be mailed in March.
• It is taking longer to sell a home. The average days on market rose to 94 in 2011, up from 81 in 2010. The median days on market rose to 60, up from 44.
Added all up, the numbers suggest a local real estate industry that is in full weather-the-storm mode.
“The last couple of years have been downturn years, no doubt,” said Bryan Hedges, president of Realty Executives Hedges Real Estate. “You just have to live through them. As far as last year, we’re just trying to forget.”
Real estate agents with several different firms, though, said there are signs of 2012 getting off to a better start. Unseasonably warm weather has helped bring out more potential buyers.
“For some home buyers, spring is already here,” Minnis said. “It seems like the general mood is more optimistic than it has been for a few years. I don’t think we’re going to set any records for 2012, but I think it is going to be better.”