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Originally published: 2013-11-04 11:25:11
Last modified: 2013-11-04 11:28:01

HCAR: Real estate sales steady but inventory remains high

Local real estate sales increased for the third consecutive month in September, hitting year highs in both homes sold and total value.

Year to date, total Realtor sales in the three-county area are at a six-year high, according to the High Country Association of Realtors.

There were 131 homes sold worth $38.01 million in September. That's a slight increase over August, when 130 homes sold for $36.16 million, according to the High County Multiple Listing Service which tracks Realtor sales in Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties.

The median sold price -- the price point at which just as many home sold above it as below -- dropped, from $220,000 in August to $200,000 in September. Yet the average sold price --  sum of all final prices divided by sales --  was $290,185, a three-year high.

Year-to-year, the median sold price for September made a jump from $174,950 to $200,000; a 14 percent increase. There were 128 homes sold then for $29.83 million.

"A few more buyers have helped our market," said Jerry Starnes, president of the High Country Association of Realtors. "But a two- to three-year inventory level will keep prices from improving."

At the end of September there were 3,071 active listings in the High Country market.

For the year so far, Realtor home sales are near even to this time in 2012. Through the first nine months of 2013, 944 homes have sold, compared to 946 last year. The cumulative sales value is up 4 percent, to $241.9 million.

The median sold price is down 1.2 percent, from $197,400 to $195,000.

With regard to total Realtor real estate activity --  including not just single-family homes, condos, and townhouses but also commercial land, acreage and subdivision lots --  year-to-date sales are up slightly, from 1,253 to 1,260. Sales value is up 5.2 percent, to $277.6 million. That's the highest sales value through nine months since 2008.

Interest rates continue to remain low. Earlier in the summer there were predictions rates would spike, but they've remained steady the past few weeks. As of October 10, 30-year fixed-rate loans averaged 4.23 percent, statistically unchanged from 4.22 percent the previous week, and the lowest level since June, according to Freddie Mac's weekly survey. Rates are up less than one percent since May.

Nationally, existing-home sales increased in August to the highest level in six-and-a-half years, according to the National Association of Realtors. It also reported national sales are at the highest pace since February 2007.

In North Carolina, Realtor sales are up 24 percent compared to last year. The average sold price is up 5 percent, to $210,526.