Lawrence home sales sag in April as houses remain scarce, but signs point to more listings

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Maybe Lawrence residents have started to notice that some of their neighbors are smiling excessively, doing happy dances in their front lawns and occasionally are having a hard time keeping their piles of cash from blowing out their front doors. Well, that may not exactly be the scene for everyone putting their Lawrence homes on the market, but it is in the right genre.

And such scenes might finally start to be convincing other Lawrence homeowners to put their houses on the market too, according to the latest report from the Lawrence Board of Realtors.

The Lawrence market had 193 new listings come on the market in April. That’s the highest number of new listings since June 2019.

Rob Hulse, executive vice president for the board, said Realtors do believe listings are rising as homeowners begin hearing stories of their neighbors selling their houses just hours after listing them, sometimes for more than the asking price.

“It is an encouraging statistic,” Hulse said of the new listing totals.

Encouraging, but not enough to turn the Lawrence housing market around, yet. Home sales fell by about 7% in April, compared with April 2020, according to the latest statistics from the Board of Realtors. Homes continued to sell fast, as the number of buyers far exceeded the number of sellers. The median number of days a home set on the market before selling was three.

Home prices continue to rise as a result. The median selling price in April was nearly $255,000, up 9.9% from a year ago. John Huntington, Jr., president of the local board, said 58% of all homes sold are now selling for above their asking price. Most homes are selling for about 5% above asking prices, he said.

He also said it had been six months since Lawrence has started a month with at least 100 homes actively on the market. That streak continued in May. Despite the surge in new listings, the Lawrence market ended April with just 92 active listings. That’s better than some lows earlier this year, when active listings were near 40 homes, but the April totals were still well below historic norms. For instance, in April 2019, the city had 245 homes on the market.

But there are some signs that the Lawrence market is starting to cool off some, at least from a price standpoint. For the year, the median selling price is up 9.1%. While that is still a strong growth rate, at this time last year the median selling price was up 10.1%. Numbers from the Douglas County appraiser’s offices also suggest selling prices aren’t quite as red hot this year as last year.

Also of note is that selling prices in Lawrence aren’t growing as rapidly as those in the Kansas City market. The median selling price in Kansas City, through April, is up 12.5%.

Here’s a look at several numbers from the most recent Lawrence report:

• Through April, Lawrence home sales totaled 320. That’s down 9.6%. Compare that to what is happening in Kansas City, where home sales are up 8.7% for the year.

• The one category that is posting positive sales numbers for the year is newly constructed homes. There have been 43 sales through April of brand new homes, up 4.9% from a year ago. Don’t get too excited, though. That’s only an increase of two homes.

Homebuilders simply have not created a surge of new homes in the Lawrence market. Building permit statistics from the city of Lawrence have been a bit delayed this year, but City Hall recently released statistics through March. Those reports show the city has issued 43 permits for new single-family homes since the beginning of the year.

Technically, that is about a 10% increase from a year ago. That’s a similar growth rate to what is happening in the Kansas City housing market. Single family housing starts were up 11% in the KC metro through March, according to the Home Builders Association of Greater Kansas City. But this is where percentages can be a little misleading. The 11% growth rate in KC meant home construction increased by about 160 homes over and above last year’s pace. In Lawrence, our 10% growth rate meant home construction increased by four homes over and above last year’s pace.

Lawrence’s home building market shrunk considerably after the last housing bubble, and it just isn’t very big currently.

• The median selling price for a home in Lawrence is now $248,700, through April. That’s up from $227,950 through April 2020 and $207,050 in April 2019. The median selling price for a newly constructed home is $344,150, thus far in 2021. That’s basically unchanged from a year ago, and is actually down about $10,000 from two years ago.

• Let’s finish where we started, which was with the surge in new listings. Of the 193 new listings in April, 50 of them were below $200,000 in price. Another 45 were above $400,000. All the rest were between $200,000 and $400,000.


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