Home prices are once again surging in Lawrence, after signs that they were set to moderate in 2024

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A trip to Worlds of Fun or Disneyland may not be necessary. Travel through a Lawrence neighborhood and you may well find a roller coaster. The local housing market, at least, seems to be riding one.

April housing sales rose by 40% from a year ago, and housing prices are now soaring again too, after a few months where it looked like big increases were poised to moderate.

Local real estate agents sold 91 homes in April, up from 65 during April 2023. That’s a notable jump, but it also is worth remembering that April 2023 was a particularly bad month for sales. Perhaps a better comparison is to April 2022, when agents sold 115 homes.

The more interesting number might be what has happened to housing prices. From December through February, the median selling prices of homes fell each of those months. As I reported, it had been a good long time — at least three years — since the Lawrence market had posted three consecutive months of decline.

The result was that the 2024 year-to-date median selling price for a Lawrence home was $286,000 at the end of February. That was down from $302,250 at the the end of December. Was 2024 — with higher mortgage interest rates and stubborn inflation — finally going to be the year that homebuyers drew the line and stopped paying so much for homes?

The results from March and April are saying no (and they are maybe laughing at us as well). In March, the median selling price for Lawrence homes rose by 31% from a year earlier. In April, the median selling price rose by nearly 18% from a year earlier.

Now, 2024 is looking to be a year when home prices won’t moderate at all, but might produce another double-digit increase. Thus far for 2024 year to date, the median selling price was $312,450, up 11% from the same period a year ago.

“The demand and competition for homes remains strong, resulting in appreciating home values and listings that are not on the market very long,” Jill Ballew, president of the Lawrence Board of Realtors, said in the group’s monthly housing report.

Ballew noted that mortgage interest rates have come down some from earlier in the year, which may have led to the uptick in activity.

However, the big trend hanging over the Lawrence market is the same one that has been there for several years. The number of homes on the market is relatively small compared with the number of people looking to buy. In April, the median number of days a home sat on the market before selling was just four days in Lawrence.

There are some signs of improvement on that front. The number of active listings in April were 119, up from 106 in April 2023 and up significantly from just 78 active listings in April 2022.

Theoretically, the more homes that are on the market, the less quickly home prices should rise. But that only holds true if demand for housing stays steady. The latest numbers suggest demand has maybe surged as well.

The housing market is on enough of a roller coaster ride that predictions are probably more worthless than normal. It should be interesting to watch what housing prices do the rest of the year. As a reminder, the median selling price of a Lawrence home rose by 4.2% in 2023. So, to be an 11% increase thus far for 2024 is a significant difference.

As a further reminder, you may care about those prices regardless of whether you are buying or selling a home. Those median and average selling prices play a role in how much the county assessor adjusts the value of your home, which plays a big role in how much you will owe local governments in property taxes in future years.


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