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Lawrence home sales surge in May; new report shows local rental rates on dramatic rise; local incomes still lagging


Maybe it is time to sell the house, and I’m not just saying that because I perhaps didn’t keep up on the dish washing quite as well as I had planned while my wife was away this week. No, the real reason is because new Lawrence home sale numbers are out, and there are lots of indications the market has become a strong one for sellers.

Lawrence home sales in May surged by 25 percent compared with May 2014. For the year-to-date, home sales in Lawrence are up 20 percent from the same time period a year ago. But a particularly telling statistic is the number of homes that are on the market. At the end of May, there were 349 homes on the market. That’s down nearly 100 homes from May 2014. That’s a trend Realtors are hoping to see reversed.

“We still need more homes available for buyers to balance our market,” said Crystal Swearingen, president of the Lawrence Board of Realtors.

The smaller inventory of homes for sale has the potential to cool the Lawrence housing market. At the end of May, Realtors had 133 contracts written for new home sales. That number was down more than 7 percent from the same period a year ago. That decrease in inventory is a major reason that contract numbers are down, Swearingen said.

Here’s a look at other numbers from the Lawrence Board of Realtors’ monthly report:

• Home sales through May totaled 462 units, up from 383 in 2014 and 409 in 2013.

• Sales of newly constructed homes continue to struggle. Through May, 22 sales have been recorded. That’s down from 26 during the same time period a year ago, and down from 44 during the same time period in 2013.

• The median selling price of homes is $162,500, which is pretty close to the $159,000 of a year ago. But selling prices are still a bit below 2013 averages. In 2013, the median was around $169,000.

• The median number of days a house sits on the market is down to 36. (That’s not even enough time to get all the dishes washed.) That’s down from 40 in 2014 and 57 in 2013.

• Thus far this year, real estate agents have sold $90.7 million worth of homes in Lawrence. That’s up from $73.9 during the same time period a year ago, which is an increase of more than 22 percent. So, it has been a good year for real estate agents thus far.

On that note, I should tell my real estate agent friends not to hit me up. I’m not going to sell my house. Instead, I’ve loaded the dishes in the F150, and I’m heading to the car wash.

In other news and notes from around town:

• Buy stock in Ramen noodles. (And, trust me, wash the dish when you're done.) If this new report is accurate, some renters in Lawrence may need to make the cheapo food source a bigger part of their diets.

The real estate website Zillow has released its May real estate report, and it says median rent prices in Lawrence have increase by 13.4 percent over the last year. One caveat: Zillow only seeks to calculate the average rent rates for homes that are rented, not apartment units. But still, a 13.4 percent increase in rents is significant. I took a look at some other communities, and Lawrence is far outpacing most. Zillow is a little hit or miss in the communities it monitors, so I’m using a little bit different list than I normally would. But I’ve tried to find some college communities for comparison sake. Here’s a look:

— Kansas City: up 10.2 percent

— Topeka: up 2.4 percent

— Columbia, Mo.: up 1.2 percent

— Iowa City, Iowa: up 0.9 percent

— Bloomington, Ind.: up 2.2 percent

— Fayetteville, Ark.: up 7.1 percent

— Fort Collins, Colo.: up 10.8 percent.

In case you are wondering, Zillow says the median rental rate for a home — not an apartment — is $1,324 per month.

• Yesterday I reported about how the state got a decent piece of news when it came to the amount of money its residents are earning. Well, I’ve now had a chance to go through the numbers for Lawrence, and they weren’t quite as positive.

The latest report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis found that Lawrence’s per capita personal income in 2013 was just $36,187. That’s an inflation-adjusted number. It also is a 2013 number because it apparently takes the federal number crunchers awhile to come up with this statistic. But, it's what we have.

What it shows is that Lawrence’s per capita personal income — that’s everything from wages to rental income to Social Security checks — continues to be well below lots of other places. As I’ve said several times before, this is not just because Lawrence is a college town. It is a factor, I’m sure, but other college communities have overcome it. Here’s a look at some regional communities:

— Columbia, Mo.: $41,366

— Kansas City: $45,450

— Manhattan: $42,884

— Topeka: $42,460

— Wichita: $43,064

— Kansas: $45,619

We’re all taking a big discount to live in Lawrence. But our income levels did grow in 2013. Unfortunately, they grew at only about half the rate that incomes grew statewide. Lawrence’s per capita income figures grew by 0.4 percent for the year, while the state as a whole grew by 0.8 percent

Here’s a look at how we stacked up compared with other communities in the region:

— Columbia: up 0.3 percent

— Kansas City: no change

— Manhattan: down 1.4 percent

— Topeka: up 0.8 percent

— Wichita: up 0.2 percent


Richard Heckler 2 years, 9 months ago

Wages are down and rental rates are on the rise = makes no sense whatsoever.

When parents finally understand their children are getting ripped off at the universities and by the lending industry the college population will shrink.

There is not enough money for rent yes KU students will be homeless while attending classes.

Real estate inflation is direct kin to the devil.

Marc Wilborn 2 years, 9 months ago

What employees would be eligible for the union? Would you propose a prohibition against dues being directed towards political activities?

Carol Bowen 2 years, 9 months ago

It's easy to see why incomes are low in Lawrence. We don't have a good mix of jobs and pay is low.

Why is the housing market tight? Are more people moving to Lawrence, or are Lawrencians moving around? (Think housing bubble. Every time a house changes hands everyone involved wants to make money on the transaction. The house becomes worth more on paper than it really is worth.)

Clara Westphal 2 years, 9 months ago

Lawrence needs good paying jobs; not more service jobs that pay very little. KU is part of the problem as businesses hire students part-time at low wages rather than other job seekers full-time at good wages.

Topeka has Lays and Mars to bolster their economy. Lawrence needs to bring in industries that will pay good wages with benefits. Venture Park is now available. Why is it not getting the attention of manufacturing businesses that would help the economy grow? Those responsible for economic growth are not doing their job.

Rent in Lawrence is ridiculously high for both houses and apartments. .

Richard Heckler 2 years, 9 months ago

Mars came at a high price to the area through the Brownback administration. Once the cost of each job is determined those jobs might not be such a great deal.

David Holroyd 2 years, 9 months ago

East Hills is not fully developed. American Eagle was run off. Anyone remember that.

When the costs of city services are raised and the school district wants more money and gets it, property taxes go up, rents go up.

Ms Westphal , who is responsible for attracting the jobs you speak of?The chamber is an employer for the locals who have retired and need the money to keep up their high standard of living. Have you ever considered who is working for the chamber of commerce in Lawrence? Employment at the chamber is like being employed at a private club.

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