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.
Developer of Poehler building looking to file plans for new 34-unit affordable apartment project in East Lawrence
Tonight will be another big night for the Warehouse Arts District, which is what the area around the old Poehler Building at Eighth and Pennsylvania streets is being called.
As we reported last week, city commissioners tonight will consider investing several hundred thousand dollars into infrastructure repairs in the area to accommodate the latest phase of the project.
But the project will be well worth watching beyond tonight. The district’s lead developer, Tony Krsnich, confirmed to me that he soon will file plans for a brand new 34-unit apartment building for the area.
Krsnich said he has completed a deal to buy the vacant property directly south of the Poehler Building from Lawrence landowner Harold Shepherd. (If you are familiar with the area, the property is the one with the big Cottonwood tree on it, near the new city-built parking lot for the area.
The project isn’t an entirely done deal, though. Krsnich said he’ll file plans next month with the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation, which is the group that hands out federal tax credits for affordable housing projects.
The housing credit program is a competitive one, and the Lawrence project will be competing against others across the state. Krsnich, though, had luck in winning credits from the program when he converted the old Poehler building into a 49-unit affordable apartment project.
It looks like Krsnich also is trying to sweeten the pot a bit with this application. He said the plans call for Lawrence-based Tenants to Homeowners to be a partner on this project. I haven’t yet had a chance to talk to the leaders of Tenants to Homeowners to find out exactly what its role will be, but the organization has a lot of credibility in the affordable housing sector in the state.
Krsnich also can point to the fact that demand for rent-controlled apartments in the Poehler building has been very strong. The project had all its leases filled within about 12 hours of taking applications.
“I think I’ll have this project filled up in about 11 hours,” said Krsnich, who said he at one point had a waiting list of about 100 for the Poehler project.
If the new project does get tax credits — and I’m not sure it will move forward if it doesn’t — the apartments will be required to be rent-controlled for at least 30 years. I’m not sure exactly which tax credit program the project will apply for, but most of them work in such a way that rents must be deemed affordable for households earning 60 percent or less of the local median income.
If you are not familiar with how the tax credit program works, projects like this one are awarded tax credits that they then can sell to investors who want to reduce their tax liabilities. The state’s Web site estimates that developers currently are receiving about 77 cents on the dollar for each $1 worth of tax credits.
Developers use the money from the sale of the tax credits to invest in their projects, which reduces the amount of debt they have to take out and makes it feasible to rent apartments at below market-rate rents.
I believe the state has about $60 million in tax credits available to award this year. It looks like winners will be announced in May.