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Lawrence home sales take dip in March; city releases dates and attendance estimates for Rock Chalk Park tourneys; library closed through Friday
All the signs of spring have sprung at my house: dandelions in the yard, 4-H pigs in the driveway, and three closets full of Easter candy bought on clearance. So, in other words, normal stuff. But there is one spring quirk to keep an eye on right now: the Lawrence housing market.
Home sales in March fell by 15.8 percent compared with March 2013 totals, according to the latest report from the Lawrence Board of Realtors. That's no reason to panic, though. (In other words, step away from the pig and put the barbecue sauce down.) What that means in real numbers is that agents sold 64 Lawrence homes in March compared with 76 in March 2013.
But the trend is one to keep an eye on. March's poor performance turned the year-to-date home sale numbers into negative territory. For the year, Lawrence home sales total 157, which is down 3.1 percent from the same time a year ago. Lawrence's real estate market hit bottom in 2011 and has been on the upswing since then. Local real estate agents certainly are hoping for a third straight year of increasing sales.
The 3.1 percent decline isn't a big number to make up, but it is noteworthy because of where we are in the season. April, May and June are important months for the Lawrence real estate market. April is often considered the height of the spring-selling season, so about this time next month we'll have a report that will show whether March was a blip or the beginning of a new trend.
There is one number in the most recent report that creates some concern for April sales. The number of pending contracts in March was down 8 percent compared with the same period a year earlier. Those pending contracts sometimes are a good indicator of what to expect in the next month.
Here are some other numbers from the most recent report:
— Sales volume in Lawrence — measured by the total dollar amount of residential real estate sold in the city — is down 6.4 percent compared with the same period a year ago. It stands at $31.3 million at the end of March. That, however, is still a significant increase from 2012 totals, when $22.1 million had been sold.
— Most of the decline in home sales has come on the new construction front. Thus far in 2014, only nine newly constructed homes have sold, down from 13 a year earlier.
— The median selling price of a home is largely unchanged from a year ago at $165,000.
— The median number of days a house sits on the market has increased to 75 days, up from 68 a year ago.
— The number of active listings on the Lawrence market stood at 374 at the end of March, down about 8 percent from the 408 in March 2013.
As I said earlier, next month's report will be one to keep an eye on — just like that pig in the house. If he figures out how to get that closet door open, we're going to have a real mess.
In other news and notes from around town:
• We reported a few weeks ago that officials with the city's Parks and Recreation Department had started booking tournaments for the new 181,000-square-foot recreation center at Rock Chalk Park. Well, now we have more details about when those tournaments will be and just how many people they may draw to town.
Here's a look at the information available thus far:
— Nov. 16: Mid America Youth Basketball Tournament: estimated attendance 750 people;
— Dec. 7: Mid America Youth Basketball Tournament: estimated attendance not provided;
— Dec. 12-14: AGAPE Hoops Productions Basketball Tournament: estimated attendance 1,000 people:
— Dec. 27: Blue Valley Juniors Athletic Association Volleyball Tournament: estimated attendance 1,200 people;
— Jan. 3-4 Heart of America Volleyball Tournament: estimated attendance 1,500 people.
Obviously, a couple of those tournaments involve the possibility of overnight visitors to Lawrence. What isn't known currently is how far of a geographic reach these tournaments are designed to have. But what is clear is that interest is high in the new facility, which is scheduled to be open in September. Officials with Parks and Recreation have told me that in addition to the chance to play in a new facility, tournament organizers like the facility's location between Topeka and Kansas City.
• If you are hoping to find your favorite book about spring or leftover Easter candy or 4-H pigs, you'll need to look somewhere other than the Lawrence Public Library this week. The library will be closed Monday through Friday for a major project to add RFID tags to the approximately 200,000 items in its collection. The RFID system will increase the speed of checkout at the new library and also should decrease the amount of time it takes library staff members to reshelve books. Library officials are noting that people who have books due during this week won't accrue any late fines if they are not returned this week, although I think you can still return them via the outdoor drop box.