Home Sales Figures Less Ghastly in April – Memphis Daily News

Home Sales Figures Less Ghastly in April – Memphis Daily News
SIGN OF PROGRESS: Sales of homes ? such as this one in the East Memphis ZIP code of 38117 ? registered a decent month in April, surpassing the 1,200 mark for the first time since October. But the market has a long way to go before fully recovering.(PHOTO BY ERIC SMITH)

ERIC SMITH | The Daily News


Friday, May 08, 2009


April is the first full month of spring, but this past April delivered a more important distinction for Shelby County’s sluggish housing market: It was the first month since October that home sales exceeded the 1,200 mark.


The final tally showed April had 1,289 home sales in the county (bank and nonbank sales combined), according to the latest data from real estate information company Chandler Reports, www.chandlerreports.com.


Granted, that number was down 14 percent from 1,498 sales in April 2008, but it also was up 10 percent from 1,176 in March. And it was the second consecutive month to beat the previous month in sales, with March’s 1,176 sales 26 percent better than February’s 870 sales.


“The numbers do show slight improvement,” said Jon Albright, president of Memphis Area Association of Realtors and a partner at Investec Realty Services LLC. “Hopefully this is the beginning of a trend.”


But other trends weren’t as positive. The average sales price for homes last month was $111,361, a 23 percent decline from $144,084 in April 2008 and a 6 percent decline from $118,443 in March.


And the total amount of sales in terms of dollars last month was $143.6 million, a 34 percent dropoff from $216.2 million in April 2008 and just a 3 percent improvement over $139.3 million in March.

Turning tide?


Realtors were reserved in their assessment of the market – happy to see the numbers improve from the previous month, but hoping to see the flurry of activity in their offices translate into more closings.


“Definitely – we have seen over the last couple of months a real increase in people looking and people listing,” said Betsy Kelly, broker at The Hobson Co. Realtors and a director at MAAR. “I have, and I know I’m not the only one.”


Allen Green, broker at John Green & Co. Realtors, agreed the uptick in traffic has been encouraging, as the winter doldrums seemed to finally dissipate.


“We’ve seen an increased number of showings in the last 30 and 40 days, and what we’re starting to see is movement on people’s homes in other places,” Green said. “Overall, we’re just a lot busier than we were a month ago.”


But only nine submarkets showed an increase in sales from April 2008 to April 2009, with many of those benefitting from foreclosure, or bank, sales. The top ZIP code for the month in terms of total sales was Raleigh’s 38128 with 84 sales averaging $41,195 and totaling $3.5 million. However, 48 of those were bank sales, tops for the county in that category.


Collierville’s 38017 ZIP code led Shelby County in terms of nonbank sales with 55 sales averaging $323,119 and totaling $17.7 million. Its sales number was down 37 percent from April 2008.


Breaking out the bank sales from nonbank sales paints a slightly different picture for the month. April saw 559 bank sales, or 43.4 percent of the total activity. Bank sales averaged $56,517 and accounted for $31.6 million of the total dollar activity.


And there were 730 nonbank sales, or 56.6 percent, during the month. Nonbank sales averaged $153,454 and accounted for $112 million of the total dollar activity.

Critical period


Dick Leike is the founder of Crye-Leike Inc., the fourth-largest realty company in the nation. He has seen his share of ups and downs in real estate, and he was encouraged by the latest numbers. Mostly, though, he hopes the housing market will spark positive activity elsewhere in the economy.


“We know anytime homes start selling, people have jobs,” Leike said. “It creates a lot of other activity when you sell a house. If we can get that spinning like we think we’re starting to see, it certainly should spill over into other things as well.”


Leike said conditions are ripe for a rebound, from the warmer weather to affordable home prices, from low interest rates to lucrative incentives such as the first-time homebuyers tax credit. The key, he said, will be what May’s numbers look like.


If the current month meets expectations – something April fell short in attaining – then the industry can change its tune from “cautiously optimistic” to “optimistic.”


“I don’t know whether we’re two months out from seeing a rebound, or whether it’s six months for it to really firm into a rebound,” Leike said. “But it will be really interesting to see what May turns out with. ? If May picks it up and runs with it, then we start feeling pretty good about it.”


Chandler Reports is a division of The Daily News Publishing Co.