Lawrence home sales try to finish the year strong

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It makes sense that fall is the time homes start feeling a little cramped. The garage is full of Halloween candy and the free-range Thanksgiving turkey is roaming in the living room. (They say they’re healthier for you, but my blood pressure rises every time he messes with the remote.) Maybe that cramped feeling is what led to a surge in Lawrence home sales in October.

Or maybe not. Regardless, homes sales were up about 16% in October after being on the slow side for much of 2019, according to the latest report from the Lawrence Board of Realtors. In fact, the Lawrence real estate market is beginning to resemble the fellow who goes back for a third slice of Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. It is finishing strong.

Lawrence home sales posted six consecutive months of year-over-year declines from February to July. But the October increase now marks the third straight month that homes sales have been on the rise.

The October report shows that another key number also is moving in the right direction. The number of homes on the market increased by nearly 20% — to 302 homes — compared to the same month a year ago. For more than a year now, local real estate agents have said the biggest problem facing the Lawrence market is a small inventory of homes for sale. The overall numbers suggest the market is still tight, but the 20% increase continues a trend of inventory levels growing.

As the number of homes for sale increases, the upward pressure on selling prices is easing somewhat. The median selling price for homes in October was down 7.6% compared to the same month a year ago.

That’s a significant change from what has been happening most of the year. Home prices have been on the rise most months. When you look at home sales year-to-date, the median selling price is $215,000, up 7.5% from the same period a year ago. Appraisers and budget-makers with local governments will be watching the price trend over the next couple of months closely. The price of homes near Jan. 1 is what county appraisers are required to use when calculating the taxable value of homes for 2020. Those tax values will be what local governments use to craft their 2021 budgets, which are set in the summer of 2020.

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

• Despite the end-of-the-year surge, the local real estate market still has work to do if it wants to post gains for the year. Year-to-date, home sales are down 4.9% compared to the same 10-month period a year ago. Sales total 1,029 year to date.

• Sales of newly constructed homes are particularly down. For the year, they total 85 sales, which is down about 25% from a year ago. October was no help in that category. Sales of newly constructed homes totaled 5, down from 7 a year earlier.

• As sales of newly constructed homes have slowed, selling prices have reacted a bit, but perhaps not as much as you would expect. While sales are down about 25%, the median selling price is basically even from a year ago at $338,000. The best that can be said about the prices for new homes is they are not seeing the double-digit increases they have posted in the past. Last year at this time, selling prices for newly constructed homes were up 10.6%.

• Thus far for the year, the median number of days a home sits on the market before it sells is 12, up from 11 a year ago. That number indicates it is still a seller’s market, meaning buyers have to act quickly to make deals.

• While the number of homes sold in Lawrence continues to be down by about 5%, the dollar value of all homes sold is much closer to breaking even with the prior year. Real estate agents have sold $249.5 million worth of homes, down 2.7% from the same period a year ago.


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