Lawrence real estate market continues winning streak in 2017; questions turn to whether home prices will jump in 2018

Back in January 2017, there was a bit of worry about whether Lawrence’s real estate market was going to take a downward turn in the new year. (Other than that, I think the world was pretty worry-free in January 2017.) Well, rest easier. The final real estate numbers for 2017 are in, and the Lawrence market did just fine.

The Lawrence Board of Realtors’ latest report shows 2017 home sales in the city increased by 4 percent compared to 2016 totals. There had been some concern that Lawrence’s real estate market might go through a slump in ’17 because 2016 ended a bit weak. Sales in 2016 grew by only 2.4 percent, and there were concerns housing prices were rising rapidly enough to slow demand. The median home price increased by more than 5 percent in 2016, one of the higher yearly gains in recent memory.

All the concerns, though, were a false alarm. Here’s a look at some of the key real estate numbers from 2017.

• Lawrence home sales totaled 1,261 in 2017. That’s up 4 percent from 2016 totals and up 6.5 percent from 2015 totals. It was the third year that Lawrence’s home market showed significant growth. The 2014 market was basically stagnant. Lawrence hasn’t seen a real downturn in the home market since 2011, when the economic woes of the nation caused home sales to plummet by 14.7 percent.

• The number of newly constructed homes sold in 2017 was a highlight. The report shows 114 newly constructed homes were sold in 2017, up from 103 in 2016 and 83 in 2015. The new home market has been making a gradual comeback. For instance, in 2014 the number of newly constructed homes sold had dipped to 76.

• Average selling prices in Lawrence continued to rise, but not as rapidly as they did in 2016. The median selling price increased to $180,000 in 2017, an increase of 1.1 percent over 2016’s median. However, that 1.1 percent growth was quite a bit slower than the 5.3 percent increase home prices experienced in 2016. Going back a bit further, the median selling price in 2012 was $159,500. So, home prices over the last five years have increased by about 12 percent in Lawrence.

• Homes are continuing to sell very quick. The median number of days a home sat on the market before selling was 11. That’s down from 19 in 2016 and down from 25 days in 2015. To give you some perspective, the median number of days a home sat on the market in 2012 was 59.

• The number of homes on the market continue to be pretty low. December ended with 183 homes on the Lawrence market. That was up 3 homes from December 2016 totals, but it was down from 240 homes at the end of 2015. In 2012, the number stood at 369.

“Supply is still at a staggeringly low rate,and is forecasted to continue to be low well into the year,” Henry Wertin, president of the Lawrence Board of Realtors noted in the report.

Whether tight inventories remain in 2018 will play a key role in whether home prices begin to rise rapidly again. If home prices do rise rapidly again, that also may be a sign that the county appraiser will raise your tax values on your home. Which, unless governments cut their property tax mill levies, will mean a tax increase.

So, see, there is always something to worry about.