It has now been nearly 12 straight months of falling home sales in Lawrence, yet home prices continue to rise

photo by: Shutterstock

Economists are infamous for making “on the one hand, but on the other hand” type of statements. I’m not an economist, but here’s my version for the Lawrence housing market: On the one hand there are plenty of signs of a Lawrence housing slowdown, but in the other hand, you had better still have a large wad of cash if you hope to buy a home here.

The Lawrence Board of Realtors recently released home sale numbers through August, and the headline number in that report definitely points to a slowdown. The number of sales in August was down 10.1% compared with the same month a year ago.

But you sure wouldn’t know we are in the midst of a slowdown based on sales prices. The median selling price for a home in Lawrence during August was up 14.7% from the same month a year ago, settling at $292,500.

The August numbers are pretty indicative of how the entire year has gone. Lawrence home sales year-to-date through August are down 9.7%, while the median selling price is up 11.3%.

Talk of a housing slowdown has gotten a lot of attention nationally as mortgage rates have really started to rise off of historic lows. Folks who pay attention to Lawrence housing statistics, though, know that this local slowdown began long before mortgage rates started to rise. (We also know we have to come up with a better hobby than graphing housing statistics.)

This month’s slowdown in home sales actually is a milestone number. It has now been a full year since the Lawrence real estate market has posted a monthly gain in home sales. In August 2021, home sales were up 5.9% from a year ago. That is the last time the market produced an increase. Here’s what has happened since:

• September 2021: No change

• October 2021: down 17.5%

• November 2021: down 11.7%

• December 2021: down 19.1%

• January 2022: down 8.2%

• February 2022: down 1.6%

• March 2022: down 6.5%

• April 2022: down 8.2%

• May 2022: down 11.0%

• June 2022: down 13.5%

• July 2022: down 18.9%

• August 2022: down 10.1%

Those numbers should serve as a reminder that not all slowdowns are created equally. Most of the slowdown from the past year in Lawrence has been fueled by a shortage of homes for sale rather than a shortage of buyers.

That type of slowdown actually increases the selling price of homes, as a large pool of buyers becomes more aggressive in trying to purchase a small number of homes.

There was one number in the August report that maybe — and only maybe — suggests Lawrence is beginning a different type of slowdown fueled by fewer buyers. The median number of days a home sat on the market before selling rose to 7 days, up from 4 a year ago. That increase of 3 days was the largest the Lawrence market has experienced in at least a year.

As the number of days a home sits on the market increases, theoretically, you will start to see home prices come down. But, make no mistake, the August statistics still show that Lawrence’s housing market is very fast moving. A median of seven days on the market is still quite low.

Another number that real estate professionals look at frequently is how long would it take to sell all the available homes on the market, if no new ones were added. At the end of August, the answer was 1.1 months. Real estate professionals consider a balanced market — meaning sellers don’t really have an advantage over buyers and vice versa — to be at four to six months worth of supply. Lawrence hasn’t been in that situation for a long time, and local real estate agents continue to bemoan that fact.

In her monthly report, Lawrence Board of Realtors President Lindsay Landis, really urged community leaders to get in a different mindset about housing growth.

“To put it simply, Lawrence and Douglas County are not meeting the current demand for homes,” Landis said in the report. “It’s a bit late to talk about being proactive, but we (as a city, county, and community) need to identify areas and take action for growth in all sectors for housing, including not only affordable and workforce housing, but market rate housing.”

There are signs that Lawrence’s housing market is tighter than some others in the region, but tight supply is not just a Lawrence issue. New data from the Kansas City Regional Association of Realtors shows a tight supply for the entire KC metro area. It had 1.5 months of supply in its market at the end of August.

The greater KC market also is seeing the same trend of declining homes sales but higher selling prices. Through August, home sales in the greater KC market are down 5.6%, but the median selling price for homes is up 11.5% to $290,000.


You might think that if you aren’t selling a home or trying to buy a home that these rising home prices don’t have much impact on you. Come tax time next year, you might be thinking differently.

How much homes are selling for in the Lawrence market is a key factor in the county appraiser determining the taxable value of your home. If the taxable value of your home rises, chances are your tax bill also will increase, as local governments haven’t lately been cutting property tax rates enough to offset rising home values.

This year produced some of the highest increases in tax values in memory. But there is a new set of numbers out that raises the question of whether next year’s increase will be even higher.

The Douglas County Appraiser’s Office recently provided an update on the process it uses for checking the accuracy of home values. The appraiser’s office looks at every home sale that occurs in the county and compares the selling price of the home to what the taxable value of the home was at the time of the sale. In a perfect world, the selling price and the taxable value will match.

They never do match, as the process of valuing property is far from perfect or precise. But through July, the county’s numbers show selling prices, on average, have been 10.5% higher than the tax value the county has assigned to properties. Last year — the year that produced a historic spike in tax values — the county was off by 7.8%.

It is still too early to say what this will mean for tax value in 2023, but it bears watching. If the trend continues through the rest of the year, it certainly will put pressure on the county appraiser to raise tax values by a significant amount again. By state law, the county appraiser has to try to make tax values and selling prices roughly match.


Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.