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Real estate sales, home building off to decent start in 2014; new numbers about county’s housing values, tax base released

Perhaps you are like me, and this winter weather has you in the market for a very specific type of home: one with a heated driveway and sidewalks. (Or I would even settle for one equipped with a 10-year old son who doesn't feel faint at the sight of a snow shovel.)

I'm not sure any of those types of homes have sold recently, but the latest series of real estate and building reports indicate that 2014 got off to a decent start for home builders and real estate agents.

Here's a look at a few reports:

• Although January is one of the slower months for local real estate agents, home sales increased by a little more than 10 percent, compared with January 2013 totals, according to a new report from the Lawrence Board of Realtors. Home sales totaled 41 for the month, including five sales for newly constructed homes. The most important number of the report, however, may be the number of homes on the market. Active listings in Lawrence are down 320 homes, which is a decline from 380 in January 2013 and 460 from January 2012. That's a positive sign for the market. More homes are selling, but if the number of listings doesn't move upward, look for prices to rise.

• Lawrence home builders took out permits for nine new homes in January, compared with eight in January 2013. January obviously isn't a big month for starting new home construction, but, for what it is worth, the nine is the highest January total in at least the last five years. The five-year average for January home starts is 5.4 new homes. (Rumor has it, the guy who lived in the 0.4 of a home, spent all his money on heated sidewalks.)

• When it comes to numbers, the one homeowners usually care most about should be arriving in the mailbox at any moment. The Douglas County Appraiser's Office sent out change of value notices on Friday. The notices tell homeowners how much the appraiser's office thinks their property is worth. That number, of course, is key in determining how much a homeowner pays in property taxes. I haven't yet got an update from the appraiser on what most homeowners should expect. When I get that information, I'll pass it along. But his most recent report did include some other interesting numbers:

— The total value of real estate in Douglas County is on the rise. Total assessed valuation — that's the taxable value, not the fair market value — was $1.04 billion dollars on Jan. 1. That's up 2.2 percent from Jan. 1, 2013. Appraiser Steve Miles said most of the increase was due to new construction and an increase in the value of agricultural land in the county. If that number holds — it generally goes down a bit as people appeal their tax values — it will be good news for local governments who use the tax base to help build their budgets.

— The median value of all residential property in the county — excluding big apartment complexes — was $161,700 in 2014. That's up 2.9 percent from the $157,000 median in 2013. The median value had declined in 2013, 2012 and 2009. The report shows that median values still have a ways to climb before they reach the levels seen during the housing boom. In 2008, the median value of residential property in the county was $164,900.

— The report provides a median residential value for each of the four communities in the county, plus the rural area. Those values: Baldwin City, $140,000, up 5.5 percent; Eudora, $137,900, up 9 percent; Lecompton, up $109,860, up 30.8 percent; Lawrence, $160,200, up 0.3 percent; $199,800, up 30.2 percent.

— Housing, of course, is just one part of the county's real estate tax base. Commercial real estate, agricultural land and a few other miscellaneous categories also make up the tax base. But residential property is certainly the giant among the bunch, which has been a bit of a concern to economic development leaders for a long time. The idea is that commercial real estate produces more jobs and pays a higher tax rate. So, having more commercial, job-producing real estate in the community has been a goal.

Well, I've done some figuring. (It wasn't pretty. Those were really big numbers, so I had to call on my neighbors to take off their shoes as well.) Regardless, here's a look: In 2014, residential property made up 68.5 percent of the tax base compared with 68.1 percent in 2013. Commercial real estate made up 25.6 percent in 2014 compared with 25.7 percent in 2013. So, we didn't go in the right direction.

Just for fun, I also went back to 2004 to see how the numbers have changed. In 2004, residential made up 67 percent of the tax base and commercial made up 25.9 percent. These really are big numbers, so you shouldn't expect big swings. But it is telling that for an entire decade we lost ground on the goal of strengthening our commercial tax base.

In other news around town:

• Maybe all these numbers have made you want to be a renter. If so, you might have some questions about the city's proposed rental licensing and inspection program. Whether you are a renter, a landlord or just an interested resident, we want your questions about the program. City Commissioner Jeremy Farmer will participate in an online chat at 11 a.m. Thursday. Click here to submit some questions in advance.

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    Group wins grant for new city nature park trail; Lawrence home sales top the 1,000 mark for year

    A new Lawrence park and a new Lawrence trail are beginning to look more likely all the time.

    A grant totaling up to $55,000 has been awarded to the local nonprofit group Outside for a Better Inside, group founder John McGrew has told me. The grant, from the Topeka-based Sunflower Foundation, will be used to help build a nature trail on the central Lawrence property that used to house the Lawrence VFW.

    The trail is a key part of a plan to convert 8 acres in the Pinckney neighborhood into a nature park that will be donated to the city. City officials last month preliminarily agreed to accept the donation of the property, once private funding arrangements could be made for the trail.

    The Sunflower grant is a key cog in the funding of the trail. McGrew has estimated the paved trail will cost a little more than $100,000 to build. McGrew — who is a longtime Lawrence real estate executive — has said he is confident the Outside for a Better Inside organization can successfully conduct private fundraising to complete the project.

    McGrew believes the trail can be completed by Spring of 2014. I haven't yet talked with city officials since word of the grant, so we'll see what their timelines are. Previously they had expressed optimism that the park, which is around Second and Alabama streets, could be open by late 2014.

    Plans call for the trail to go through a hardwood forest and partially around a small lake that used to be a clay pit for an old-time brick factory. As we recently reported, the site has an old cabin and an interesting history as a Lawrence zoo.

    The property is owned by the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center. Bert Nash plans to donate the back half of the property to the city, but still has long-range plans to develop the front half of the site with a new building that could house medical offices for Bert Nash and the Heartland Community Health Clinic.

    In other news and notes from around town:

    • Some people sing Home for the Holidays, while other people buy a home for the holidays. Lawrence home sales in November were relatively strong, according to the latest report from the Lawrence Board of Realtors.

    Lawrence home sales in Novembers were up almost 13 percent compared to November 2012 totals, according to the report. For the month, 53 homes were sold.

    November's showing continues what has been a real good year for the Lawrence real estate market. In fact, November's sales pushed the market past a key milestone: Total sales for the year stood at 1,001 at the end of November. Lawrence has tried to break the 1,000 home sale barrier for a few years now.

    Through November, Lawrence home sales for the year were up 20 percent compared to the same period a year ago. Compared to the same period in 2011, sales are up a remarkable 53 percent. The rebound in the Lawrence real estate market really has been one of the more important business stories of the last couple of years.

    It is not only sales that have rebounded, but prices are up too. The median selling price thus far in 2013 is $170,000, up 7.3 percent from the same period a year ago. That's a change from what we saw in 2012. Basically what happened in 2012 is that the local real estate market started to pick up steam, in part, because selling prices of homes had dropped. At this point last year, home prices were down by almost 6.5 percent. But it seems clear that price correction was a one year event. It will be interesting to see how the county appraiser values people's homes here in the next few months. This is a key time for the appraiser's office. State law requires him to set a value for every home as of Jan. 1 of each year. We usually get those change in value notices mailed to us in March.

    As for other statistics from this month's report:

    — The number of listings on the Lawrence market is down to 380. That's down nearly 17 percent from the same period a year ago. If that trend holds, that also likely will put upward pressure on home prices.

    — The median number of days a home stays on the market before selling is now down to 42. That's compared to 60 days in 2012.

    — The number of newly constructed homes sold thus far in 2013 is 92. That's up nearly 18 percent from the same period a year ago.

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  • Reply 2 comments from Merrill Clark Coan

    Lawrence home sales for October strong

    After showing signs of cooling off in September, Lawrence's residential real estate market heated right back up again in October.

    October homes sales in Lawrence rose by 17 percent compared with the same time period of a year ago. Home sales in Lawrence have increased for nine of the 10 months on record in 2013. But the one month that showed a decline was September, which meant real estate observers were waiting to see whether that was the beginning of a new slowdown in the market.

    October's numbers suggest the Lawrence market has dodged a late season slump. Now, the question turns to whether the Lawrence market can dodge something even nastier: the impact of the federal government shutdown.

    John Esau, the president of the Lawrence Board of Realtors, noted the only negative in this month's report is that the number of new contracts real estate agents wrote during October was down about 12.5 percent compared with the same period a year ago. Esau speculated that was because during October the government shutdown created concerns about lenders being able to timely process loans and also created economic concerns among buyers.

    The shutdown happened during the early parts of October, but most of its impacts on real estate sales likely won't show up until the November report. That's because October's report largely shows sales that had contracts written in September, before the shutdown. November's report will have sales that had contracts largely written in October. (There's no set formula, but generally it takes a few weeks for a sale to be finalized on a house.)

    So, it will be interesting to see if November's home sale numbers take a hit, but it likely won't be too much to be worried about since the shutdown is now over. Indeed, the Lawrence real estate market for all of 2013 has been pretty worry free. Here's a look at several of the most recent statistics:

    • Through October, Lawrence home sales for all of 2013 total 948, up 20.5 percent from a year ago. Compared with 2011, home sales are up nearly 53 percent.

    • Sales of newly constructed homes are up about 21 percent compared with a year ago. A total of 86 new homes have been sold, up from 71 at this time in 2012 and 55 in 2011. It is worth noting, however, October 2013 wasn't a good month for new-constructed home sales. Only four sold in Lawrence in October, down from 11 in October 2012.

    • The median selling price for a home in Lawrence is $170,000, up 7.3 percent from a year ago. Interestingly, the median selling price is about where it was in 2011, when it checked in at $168,250. Last year's rebound in the market partially was fueled by a significant drop in housing prices. This year's strong market, however, is happening as average home prices increase.

    • The median number of days a home sits on the market is down to 42, compared with 61 in 2012 and 59 in 2011.

    • The supply of homes available for sale continues to shrink. At the end of October there were 428 active listings, down from 490 in October 2012 and 575 in October 2013. Based on current sales activity, there is about a 5.9 month supply of homes currently on the market. In October 2011, there was about a 13.4 month supply of homes on the market.

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    Compton confirms deal to redevelop Allen Press property at 11th and Mass.; Lawrence home sales fall in September

    One of downtown Lawrence's more prominent corners may be set to change. Doug Compton this morning confirmed that he's reached a tentative agreement to develop the old Allen Press property at 11th and Massachusetts streets with a multistory apartment and retail building.

    The talk confirms speculation that has been running through several real estate circles in town. Compton would not go so far as to confirm the tenant he hopes to land for the ground floor space, but multiple other sources tell me he is working with either the CVS or Walgreens drug store chain.

    Compton confirmed he has entered into a partnership with longtime Lawrence businessman Rand Allen to develop all the property that Allen owns near the downtown intersection. The property currently includes a parking lot at the northeast corner of 11th and Massachusetts. It also includes a largely vacant industrial building that has frontage on both New Hampshire and Massachusetts streets.

    Compton said his plans call for a seven-story building that will include space for 120 apartments above the ground-floor retail space. Underground parking for at least 120 vehicles would be constructed beneath the building. The building would stretch from a point just south of the Einstein Bagel store to the corner of 11th and Massachusetts.

    "It is going to be a tall building," Compton said at a Lawrence Chamber of Commerce event this morning. "It has to be a tall building to make it work."

    Compton said the project will be similar in size and scope to the multistory buildings that his company is building at Ninth and New Hampshire streets.

    As for the retail tenant, Compton said he's received one round of approval from the national retailer, and he hopes to receive a final approval by mid-November.

    If a deal with a tenant is struck next month, Compton said he would need to be able to deliver the building by 2016. Compton's most recent project, a multistory building hotel and retail building at Ninth and New Hampshire, took nearly two years to get City Hall approval.

    "I'm hopeful the approval process will be easier than it was with the hotel project," Compton said.

    Unlike the hotel project, this development won't abut a residential neighborhood. But the project will be right across the street from one of the more historically significant buildings in downtown — the Douglas County Courthouse, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

    Look for a more complete story on this news later today.

    In other news and notes from around town:

    • Maybe everybody was too fascinated with the start of the KU football season, or maybe everybody was glued to their TVs watching CNN or FOX's coverage of the impending government shutdown, or maybe it simply was just time for Lawrence's real estate market to have an off month.

    Whatever the case, the latest report from the Lawrence Board of Realtors shows Lawrence home sales fell 8 percent in September compared to the same time period a year ago. The decline ended a streak of 17 straight months of increasing home sales in Lawrence.

    But home sales are still way up for the year, and officials with the Realtors board didn't seem too concerned about the one-month decline. Surprisingly, they didn't attribute it to the city being gripped with Kansas University football fever. (There was a definite fever at Saturday's game — the type that comes with typhoid.)

    Instead, they said interest rates did rise some in September as market-makers became concerned about the potential government shutdown at the beginning of October. Such uncertainty usually doesn't do good things for the home buying market.

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  • Reply 8 comments from Saticon Steven Gaudreau Gregdivilbiss Rtpayton Kingfisher Krichards Mari Aubuchon Terrylee Keith Richards

    Housing sales, home prices continue to rise in Lawrence

    With eight months of the year in the books, a clear picture is emerging about the city's real estate scene: Lawrence is on its way to a second straight year of a housing rebound, and housing prices are beginning to make up for lost time.

    The Lawrence Board of Realtors latest sales report shows August was another good month for the industry. Home sales in the city totaled 102 for the month, up 7.4 percent from the same period a year ago.

    But the more interesting numbers are the year-to-date figures. They show the local housing market's rebound hasn't lost any steam and, in fact, housing prices are gaining significant momentum.

    Through the first eight months of the year, 797 homes have sold in Lawrence, which is an increase of 22.6 percent from the same period a year ago. That's almost identical to the type of bounce-back year the Lawrence market posted in 2012. Last August, home sale totals were 22 percent higher than those in August 2011.

    But the new twist to this year's housing rebound is that home prices are on the rise, too. The median selling price thus far in 2013 is $170,000. That's up 7.4 percent from the same period in 2012. Last year at this time, housing prices were still falling. In August of 2012, the median selling price for a home was down 5.8 percent compared to the same period in 2011. So, last year, you could argue falling home prices were fueling the rebound in the market. You can't argue that this year.

    Selling prices always are a little difficult to compare from year to year because so much of it depends on the type of house being sold. For example, if real estate agents are selling a lot more five bedroom homes in 2013 than they did in 2012, then it would stand to reason that that average selling price would be higher. But with eight months worth of data, such differences tend to even out. For what it's worth, data from the Douglas County Appraiser's office has the average sale price for all of Douglas County up by about 5.5 percent.

    More importantly, the appraiser's office tracks every home sale in the county and then compares the selling price of the house to what the county had the house valued at for taxation purposes. Since about 2008, selling prices of homes have been, on average, about 1 percent to 3 percent lower than the appraised value the county has for the property. But now a shift has occurred with those sales ratios. Thus far in 2013, selling prices are running, on average, 1.3 percent higher than the appraised value that the county has for the property.

    All these numbers may sound a bit like my wife's weekly recitation of my chore list — probably good information to have, but I'm not quite sure why. Well, in this case, I can tell you why. If this trend continues, it will put more pressure on the county appraiser's office to increase the tax value of residential properties across the county. It is still too early to say how values may be adjusted for Jan. 1, 2014, but thus far, the data indicates there is upward pressure.

    Other numbers from the Lawrence Board of Realtors' monthly sales report include:

    • The median number of days on market for a home is 42, down from 60 during the same period a year ago.

    • The number of newly-constructed homes sold for the year is 72, up 33 percent from the same period a year ago.

    • Selling prices for newly-constructed homes have spiked. The median selling price is $309,950 for newly-constructed homes in 2013. That's up 17 percent from the same period a year ago.

    • A total of 441 homes are on the market in Lawrence. That's down nearly 8 percent from the number of listings in August 2012.

    •••

    In other news and notes from around town, expect more talk of drones from Lawrence City Hall. If you remember, there is a group pushing for an ordinance that would prohibit the city from adding any drones to its fleet of city vehicles or to its police department. The city hasn't expressed any interest in buying drones, but it also hasn't jumped at the opportunity to pass an ordinance, either. The group sent me a notice this morning saying it plans to bring the issue up again at tonight's City Commission meeting. I'm not sure much has changed since we last reported on the issue, although the group — Kansans for Responsible Drone Use — continues to get endorsements from other organizations. The latest have come from the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri, the Iraq Veterans Against the War - Lawrence, and the Lawrence Food Not Bombs group.

    Perhaps the group's efforts would gain more traction with City Hall officials if it pointed out this article I saw today in the Kansas City Star. The University of Missouri's Journalism School is applying for a permit to operate a drone. They say it could be used much like a helicopter is used for gathering news. Great. How long before that starts hovering outside the window of Allen Fieldhouse. After all, there certainly won't be any basketball news to report out of Columbia.

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  • Reply 1 comment from Number_1_grandma Gccs14r Chicago95

    Home sales and home prices both continue to rise in Lawrence

    Lawrence's real estate market seems to be returning to its past form, which may mean another annual tradition will return: Notices from the Douglas County appraiser's office that your home's tax value has increased.

    The latest numbers from the Lawrence Board of Realtors show July was another strong month for home sales in the city. Real estate agents sold 141 homes in July, up about 15 percent from July 2012 and nearly 64 percent from July 2011.

    For the year to date, real estate agents have sold 695 homes, which is a 25 percent increase from the same period a year ago and a nearly 50 percent increase from the same period in 2011.

    But the more interesting numbers are found in the selling price data. With seven months of figures in the books, it is now time to start paying attention to pricing trends. In summary, they're up.

    Through July, the median selling price on homes in Lawrence has been $168,900. That's an increase of 5.9 percent from the same period of 2012. It also marks a turnaround in the market. At this time last year, home prices were down 5.6 percent compared to 2011. In other words, it looks like home values have found their bottom in Lawrence, and now are on a fairly steady climb.

    If that trend holds, it seems likely those higher prices will be reflected in the tax values that are calculated by the Douglas County Appraiser's office. The appraiser's office hasn't provided any guidance yet on what home owners should expect this spring when they get their change of value notices. But the office has been running its own reports on home sales, and it is showing an increase in selling prices as well. Countywide, selling prices are up about 5 percent, according to the county's data.

    That doesn't necessarily mean the average property should expect to see its taxable value increase by 5 percent. But an increase is a real a possibility this year, when in the past couple of years falling or stagnant values were more the norm. The second half of the year will be key, because the appraiser's task is to determine the value of the property on Jan. 1. If interest rates rise and housing demand slows in the second half of the year, that will change the equitation considerably.

    As for other numbers in the Board of Realtors' report, here's a look:

    • Year-to-date, real estate agents have sold 62 newly constructed homes. That's up almost 41 percent from last year.

    • Through July, the median days-on-market for a house is 42, down from 60 in 2012.

    • Total sales volume for the year thus far is $140.5 million, up 33 percent from the same period a year ago.

    • The number of active listings on the market at the end of July was 437, down from 500 at the time period in 2012.

    • The number of pending contracts at the end of July stood at 124, which is down from 136 at the end of July 2012. That may mean August numbers will be down a bit from August 2012 numbers.

    Reply 34 comments from Tomato Jafs Oneeye_wilbur Steve Jacob Chicago95 Mikekt Merrill Neworleans George_braziller Binnlawrence4ever and 2 others

    Lawrence home sales improve for 15th straight month

    The hot streak continues in Lawrence's real estate market. Home sales in Lawrence rose for the 15th month in a row, according to a new report that measured June home sales.

    The Lawrence Board of Realtors found 149 units were sold in June, an increase of 4.9 percent compared to June 2012 totals.

    The local numbers outperformed the national market. National home sales fell by 1 percent in June, according to published reports.

    The strong June, which is typically the busiest month of the year for real estate agents, continues the rebound theme for 2013. Home sales year to date total 553, up 28 percent from the same period a year ago. The rebound is more dramatic when compared to 2011 numbers. Lawrence home sales are up nearly 46 percent compared to the same period in 2011.

    But here's another way to look at it. In this month's report, the Board of Realtors provided sales volume numbers, or in other words, the total dollar amount for all homes sold in a particular time period. Through June, sales volumes were at $112.2 million, up 38 percent from the same period in 2012.

    Through June of 2011, sales volumes were at $73.7 million. So, there has been an extra $38.5 million worth of home sales in Lawrence, compared to 2011. If you figure that the average sales commission on a home is 6 percent, that's an additional $2.3 million in sales commissions that local agents and agencies have collected since 2011. I know I've certainly seen some real estate agents at jewelry stores, car dealerships, and other big-ticket retailers. (Granted, I'm usually just peeping through the windows of such places. I'll leave it to you to ascertain who I'm usually trying to keep an eye on.) But the point is, the numbers are interesting because they provide a little bit of meat to the long-held notion that the real estate market is a major driver of the local economy.

    Other numbers from the report include:

    • Sales of newly constructed homes now total 51, up 50 percent from the same period a year ago.

    • The median number of days a home sits on the market is now 49, down from 63 days a year ago.

    • The median sale price is $168,900, a 5.8 percent increase from a year ago. The median sale price for newly-constructed homes is $299,900, an 18 percent increase from year-ago numbers.

    Reply 5 comments from Brew_crew122 Scritty Pea Randall Uhrich Chad Lawhorn Joe Adams

    Lawrence housing sales up 56 percent in May, according to latest report

    According to the latest report from the Lawrence Board of Realtors, the housing market produced a big bang in May. Home sales for the month were up 56 percent — totaling 142 — compared to the same period a year ago. The numbers are up almost 78 percent from two years ago.

    The numbers continue a theme of 2013 being a bounce-back year for the local real estate market. Through the first five months of the year, housing sales are up almost 40 percent compared to the same period a year ago. They’re up 55 percent from the same period two years ago.

    For the year, real estate agents have sold 403 houses in Lawrence. The even better number for the economy is that agents have sold 41 newly-constructed homes. That’s up 64 percent from a year ago. The report was full of positive numbers. They included:

    • The median number of days a home sits on the market before selling is now down to 58 days, compared to 73 a year ago.

    • The number of active listings on the market is 394, down from 586 a year ago and 676 two years ago. The number of newly-constructed homes on the market now totals only 24. That’s down from 44 a year ago and 63 two years ago.

    • The median selling price of a home thus far for 2013 is $169,000, up 7 percent from the $158,000 mark a year ago.

    • Indications are that June was a busy month for sales as well. Agents wrote sales contracts for 147 properties in May, up from 126 in May 2012. Many of those contracts are expected to be converted into sales in the June reporting period.

    It will be interesting to see what the next few months hold for the market. Everybody is keeping a close eye on interest rates, which spiked last week but have started to come back down. Real estate agents now are alerting buyers of a potential rise in rates.

    “People trying to time the market should be making their move now,” said John Esau, a local Realtor and president of the Lawrence Board of Realtors.

    Reply 4 comments from Mdlund0 Keith Gccs14r Steve Jacob

    Lawrence homes sales up 24 percent; selling prices also on the rise

    The Lawrence real estate community hit a significant milestone in March. It was the 12th straight month that the Lawrence real estate market has posted year-over-year sales gains.

    According to the new report from the Lawrence Board of Realtors, there were 76 homes sales in March, up nearly 29 percent from the 59 sales made in March 2012.

    Those numbers helped make for a strong first quarter. During the first three months of the year, 159 homes sales were recorded in the city, a 24 percent increase from the same time period a year ago.

    It was about this time last year that the real estate market started making an upward climb, but back then the market was being fueled, in part, by sellers lowering their pricing expectations.

    Now, the numbers indicate homes prices are on the rise as well. The median sale price on Lawrence homes in the first quarter was $165,000, up about 7 percent from the same period a year ago. Average sale prices should be taken with a grain of salt, because they are pretty dependent on the particular types of home being sold at the time. But still it is a number still worth watching.

    Another number showing signs of a rebound is the average number of days a home sits on the market before it sells. The median days on market in March dropped to 68 days, down from 94 during March of 2012.

    Several Realtors report the number is dropping because many homes have sold in just a matter of days. That must be the forces of supply and demand kicking in, because the supply of homes for sale on the Lawrence market is now at a two-year low.

    The report found the number of active listings in Lawrence fell to 408, down from 578 in March 2012 and from 615 in March 2011.

    All in all, local real estate agents seem to be genuinely pleased with the numbers.

    “We need more new-construction homes and resale home listings to satisfy the demand,” said John Esau, president of the Lawrence Board of Realtors and an agent with Keller Williams Realty. “It has been a long time since we could say that.”

    Now, we’ll wait and see how the rest of the important spring and summer buying season plays out. We'll see whether local agents can expand upon their streak of consecutive months of sales increases. But the report indicated that sales were going well in April. Real estate agents had written contracts for 123 homes sales in April, up from 98 in April 2012.

    •••

    Let me take care of a quick housekeeping matter here. (My wife’s ears just perked up. She would tell you my idea of housekeeping is making sure I put a chip clip on the bag of Doritos I keep next to my La-Z-Boy.) Town Talk will be off for the next couple of days. It will return on Tuesday.

    Feel free to find me on Friday. I’ll be parking cars as part of a Eudora 4-H project at the Lawrence Auto Swap Meet at the Douglas County Fairgrounds. (It runs Friday through Sunday.) Then you can help me find a fender for a ‘66 T-Bird.

    You can also try to find me on Monday, if you want. I would look in a dog house. That’s where I 'm usually forced to keep house in the days following the swap meet.

    Reply 23 comments from Bad_dog Catalano Gccs14r Oneeye_wilbur Phoghorn Chad Lawhorn Perses Pwopellewcap Kansasliberal Navyvet and 2 others

    Homes sales up in February; single-family building permits hold steady; weekly land transfers

    If you are like me and continue to set off crimson and blue confetti bombs in the TV room after every Jayhawk victory, you soon may be looking for a new house. So, how about some news and notes from the Lawrence real estate and building industry?

    • The city has February’s building permit report out, and the numbers continue to be a tale of two types of construction. Single-family home construction continues to be pretty stagnant, but there are builders staying busy with multifamily construction.

    The city issued 10 single-family building permits during the month. For the year, the city has issued 18, which is on pace with what the city did last year. (There were 19 issued during the first two months of 2012.) On the apartment front, though, the city issued permits for 22 new apartments in February, bringing the total number of units to 286. Apartment permits come in bunches though, and all the permits are for one project in the city — the new apartment development just west of Wal-Mart at Sixth and Wakarusa. That project, by the way, is being built by Lawrence-based Highland Construction, which indicates Lawrence’s Stultz family — longtime landlords in the community — are behind the project.

    In total, the city issued $6.04 million worth of building permits in February. For the year, the city has issued $22.7 million worth of permits, which is up from $10.47 million a year ago. It’s early, so it is not wise to read too much into those numbers yet, but city officials certainly would love for that pace to continue.

    • Sales of single-family homes continue a steady climb, according to a new report from the Lawrence Board of Realtors. Lawrence homes sales in February checked in at 46, up from 44 during February of 2012.

    For the year, home sales are up about 20 percent — 82 home sales during the first two months of the year vs. 69 for the same period a year ago. But the bigger story is that February marked the 11th consecutive month that homes sales have been higher than the same month a year earlier. That’s the type of statistic that begins to paint a picture of a rebound. Indeed, I’m hearing from some in the industry that agents are now starting to believe that more homes are needed on the market. That hasn’t been the case for quite some time. If that feeling continues, that’s the sort of sentiment that will fuel a rebound in the single-family construction industry.

    In terms of other numbers from the monthly report:

    — The number of active listings in Lawrence is down almost 30 percent from a year ago — 371 in February 2013 compared to 510 in February 2012.

    — The median selling price for the year is $174,125, up from $145,000 during the same period a year ago. But the sample size this early in the year is so small that those numbers don’t mean much.

    — The median days on market is at 99, which is up significantly from 79 days one year ago. That’s the one piece of the report that runs a bit counter to the recovery trend.

    • You know the housing market has been slow when homes that are built to sell for prices below their market value were slow to sell. But that had been the case for awhile with the southeast Lawrence affordable housing project being built by Tenants to Homeowners.

    In case you have forgotten, Lawrence-based Tenants to Homeowners has started construction on the Prairie Wind affordable housing community right near the corner of 26th and Haskell.

    The development is listing brand new four bedroom homes for $125,000 to $130,000. The homes have an appraised value of about $175,000. But Rebecca Buford, executive director of Tenants to Homeowners, told me even those homes were moving very slowly in the Lawrence market for the last year or more.

    But there are signs that is changing. Buford said the development has put four houses under contract in the last three weeks.

    “It is like a switch was turned on in the last month or so,” Buford said. “I think people have just been scared. And it probably wasn’t a good decision to buy if they didn’t think their job was solid. But I think people are starting to feel better about that.”

    The Prairie Wind development is set to have 18 homes when completed. Buford said five houses have already been sold and another seven are under construction, with four of those under contract. She said she hopes to have the project fully built and sold by this time next year.

    The development does place income restrictions on who can qualify to buy the below-market rate homes. Buyers must have an income under 80 percent of the median income for the area. For a Lawrence family of four that means an annual income of less than $56,650.

    • I have some catching up to do here on our listing of property sales as recorded by the Douglas County Register of Deeds. Click here to see the last few weeks worth of reports. There have not been many commercial sales of note, other than the ones we already have reported in past Town Talks. But here are few that caught my eye.

    — Maybe James Naismith’s original rules of basketball will be housed in The Oread hotel. I rather doubt that, but it appears the man who bought the rules to bring back to KU has purchased a condo in the hotel building. The listings show a trust held by David and Suzanne Booth bought an upper story condo in the hotel that sits atop Mount Oread.

    The Midland Railway Historical Association in Baldwin City has purchased a piece of property, 1704 College Street, along the railroad tracks, about a block south of its historic station. No word yet on what the plans may be for that location, but the old-time train company has been busy lately. It launched its first dinner train in January.

    — It looks like business must be going well for Biemers BBQ at 2120 W. Ninth St. The property transfers indicate the business has finalized a deal to purchase its restaurant location — which used to be the old Bucky’s hamburger joint — from a group led by Lawrence businessman Doug Compton.

    I don’t know about you, but a little BBQ and basketball sounds good right about now.

    Reply 3 comments from Navyvet Chad Lawhorn Golfguy

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