Lawrence housing prices soar by 30% in March; KDOT backs away from idea of toll lane on K-10

photo by: Shutterstock

March devoured hopes of a basketball national championship in Lawrence, and for dessert, it may have finished off any thoughts of declining home prices in the city too.

It was just a week ago that I reported on data from the Lawrence Board of Realtors that showed home prices in Lawrence had declined for three straight months — December, January and February, which marked the first such stretch of decline since at least 2019.

Well, then March came.

The median selling price for homes in March increased by 31% compared to the March 2023 median. The median selling price rose to $355,000. That spike in March was large enough that it wiped out all the declines for the year. In other words, when I reported on the February numbers, the median selling price in 2024 was $286,000, which was down 3.1% from a year earlier. Now that we’ve added the March numbers to the total, the median selling price in 2024 is $305,000, which is a 7% increase from the same time period a year earlier.

Gulp, gulp, chomp, chomp, says March.

What’s to come for the Lawrence market, though, is uncertain. The other big number from the March real estate report shows that the local housing market is volatile. Home sales in March were down 21% from a year ago. Just 55 homes sold during the month.

That marks a reversal of past months. Through February, Lawrence home sales in 2024 were up 24%. Now that we’ve added the March numbers to the mix, year-to-date sales are up just 2.7%. Lawrence real estate officials, though, are probably still cheering that number. Any gain in 2024 would be a win. Lawrence is trying to avoid its fourth straight year of declining home sales.

The next few months likely will go a long way in determining what type of year it is for the Lawrence real estate market. Spring and summer are historically the most active months for homebuyers. The market enters the season facing some headwinds. Mortgage interest rates are above 7% again, which will play a large role in many buying decisions.

“As most know, the Federal Reserve tracks the consumer price index and inflation, and as of now, the prediction doesn’t promise a lot of movement,” Jill Ballew, president of the Lawrence Board of Realtors, said in the recently released March report.

The latest number also shows that the homes people want to buy aren’t staying on the market for long. The median number of days a home sat on the market before selling was just six days in March. That’s better than the five days in March 2023 and the three days in March 2022, but it is still a historically low number.

One statistic that may be helpful to buyers is that the number of homes on the market has increased. In March, there were 124 active listings, up from 99 in March 2023 and just 80 in March 2022. However, even at 124 listings, the market is still rated as having historically low inventories. Years ago, based on the number of homes that are selling each month, the market would have been expected to have 250 to 300 homes for sale at any given time.

Those days are far in the rear-view mirror, and are unlikely to return anytime soon.

Here’s a look at some other news and notes from around town:

• If you want to see up close and personal what a dollar will and won’t buy in the Lawrence housing market, you’ve got a special chance this weekend and next. The Lawrence Spring Parade of Homes is set for 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday April 27-28 and May 4-5.

But don’t expect a particularly long parade. There are nine homes on the tour this year, as home building numbers in the city have been low for the past several years. (All the homes on the parade are new construction.)

There are eight single-family homes and one townhome on the parade — a nearly half-a-million dollar duplex near Lake Alvamar at that. Overall, prices range from $394,900 to $599,900. Tour homes are located in the west, northwest, central, and southeast parts of Lawrence, with one rural home south of the city too. More details can be found on the website of the Lawrence Home Builders Association, which organizes the free tour.

photo by: Colorado Department of Transportation

An express lane is pictured in this video screenshot from the Colorado Department of Transportation.

• On Monday I wrote about plans for an expansion of Kansas Highway 10 to six lanes in Johnson County. The big item was that the expansion is unlikely to make its way into Douglas County, despite belief that the Panasonic battery plant project will increase new traffic demands for the county.

But there was one other item I learned about K-10 that is noteworthy: It seems the idea to create designated express lanes on the highway — a type of toll lane — has fallen out of favor with the Kansas Department of Transportation.

We reported in December that KDOT wanted public comment on the idea of express lanes on a portion of the road that is heavily traveled in Johnson County. As the idea was described by KDOT, K-10 would continue to have two lanes of traffic in each direction that would not require a toll to use. But if motorists want to drive in a less congested lane, they could pull into the express lane.

The express lane would be equipped with technology like license plate readers, which would allow the state to send motorists a bill. The express lanes likely would have digital signs mounted above the roadway, telling motorists how much it would cost to travel in the express lanes. The digital signs would allow state officials to change the rates based on how congested the road is at any given moment.

It all sounds very high-tech but no longer is high-interest with the road builders. Information KDOT was presenting at recent public meetings about the K-10 project stated that express lanes no longer were being considered for the project.

A KDOT study found that it would cost about $45 million to add the needed infrastructure to make the express lanes work, but the study found the lanes “would not provide a significant congestion management benefit over a toll-free solution.”


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