Record-breaking Lawrence housing sales expected in 2016

Lawrence is slated to end 2015 with its highest number of home sales in the past five years and is forecasted to have record-setting home sales in 2016, area Realtors were told Thursday.

At a housing forecast event hosted by the Lawrence Board of Realtors, Stanley Longhofer, director of Wichita State University’s Center for Real Estate, gave an overview of future home sales, new home construction, home prices and employment rates.

Longhofer described Lawrence’s predicted 2015 and 2016 home sales as “very healthy.”

“If we’re right, we’re going to end up with home sales that will be above the peak that Lawrence hit at the height of the housing market,” he said.

At its peak — prior to the housing crisis — approximately 1,900 units were sold in the Lawrence market. According to data from WSU’s Center for Real Estate, there’s expected to be about 1,880 units sold by the end of 2015 — a 15.5 percent increase from total units sold in 2014.

The Center for Real Estate predicted that 2,020 units would be sold in 2016.

The only Kansas housing market that has exceeded its previous peak in home sales is Manhattan, Longhofer said.

The construction of new homes in Lawrence “picked up quite a bit” this year, Longhofer said, but it’s expected to decrease slightly in 2016 and remain lower than the national trend.

According to the data, there will be an estimated 235 building permits for single-family homes in 2015. For 2016, there’s expected to be approximately 225.

Prices of existing homes have remained flat over the past several years, Longhofer said, which could be “holding back” new construction.

But home values are expected to appreciate this year and next.

“Our forecast is home prices are going to have the first robust, above-inflation appreciation since the housing crisis,” Longhofer said.

The data shows values will go up 2.7 percent by the end of this year, and they’re forecasted to jump another 3 percent in 2016.

Also during the event, Lawrence Chamber CEO Larry McElwain and Luke Bell, a lobbyist for the Kansas Association of Realtors, both spoke to Lawrence’s lack of affordable housing.

Bell said he has been in discussions with the city and county about options to incentivize affordable housing for developers.

“We want to make sure that it’s a correct program for our community that’s put in place, and that we don’t use a tool that penalizes market rate value at the expense of affordable housing,” Bell said.

He brought up ideas such as waiving certain development charges and allowing more dense housing projects than what current regulations allow.

McElwain reiterated the importance of affordable housing in attracting a workforce to the city.

“For the first time in my memory, we have more people concerned about this than ever before,” he said.