First two months' data shows improvement from same period 2011
By Alison Laurio -- email@example.com
STRASBURG -- Area home sales are building.
"We've sold a million dollars more than we did last year at this time," said Dora Buck, principal broker and co-owner of Sager Real Estate, 111 E. King St. "That's just huge. Everyone is really busy writing a lot of contracts."
That year-over-year gain is for only the properties that have closed during the first two months of 2012, and the company has more that are ready to close, she said.
"We are busier from last year at this time," Buck said.
And this is before March, which marks the beginning of the spring buying season, Buck said.
Data compiled by RealEstate Business Intelligence comparing January 2012 with the same month in 2011 show combined activity for all companies selling homes in the four-county area.
In Shenandoah County:
• Total sales increased 27.93 percent this year, to $4,285,100 from $3,349,623 in 2011.
• The average selling price grew 23.01 percent, to $164,812 from $133,985.
In Warren County:
• Total sales rose 51.22 percent, to $5,542,700 from $3,665,400.
• The average selling price increased 17.19 percent, to $138,568 from $118,239.
In Clarke County:
• Total sales grew 26.92 percent, to $2,440,500 from $3,339,300.
• The average selling price rose 46.17 percent, to $348,643 from $238,521.
In Frederick County:
• Total sales dropped 33.34 percent, to $7,647,355 from $11,472,025.
• The average selling price declined 2.33 percent, to $177,845 from $182,096.
• Total sales increased 33.89 percent, to $3,644,100 from $2,721,700.
• The average selling price sank 6.28 percent, to $182,205 from $194,407.
Nancy Tilson Sinback, executive officer at the Top of Virginia Building Association, said the future is starting to look brighter for builders, too.
"Our numbers are increasing," she said. "We're busier this year than we were last year at this time, and there's more optimism. There's a very positive outlook for 2012, and even more optimism for next year."
Sinback said, for example, Frederick County issued 279 new residential building permits in 2011, 22 more permits than in 2010, including 167 single-family dwellings, 52 duplexes, 36 townhomes, 24 mobile home units and one apartment complex with 153 units.
In 2006, before the housing bubble burst, there were 967 permits issued.
Buck said a lot of first-time buyers use government programs like the 100-percent financing provided in the rural development program.
"A lot of young people are taking advantage of that," she said.
And sellers who want to move and then buy can accommodate lower sale prices because they can get a good deal when they buy, Buck said.
"The state we're in since 2006, we've had to tell some sellers to hold on to their properties. Don't move," she said. "I think people are tired. They're tired of going through what they're going through."
Nationwide, the National Association of Realtors said Monday that its index of sales agreements rose 2 percent in January to a reading of 97, the highest since April 2010, The Associated Press said.
However, one-third of Realtors had at least one contract scuttled in January, December, November and October, up from 18 percent in September, the AP said.
Sager had 188 active listings Tuesday, and 32 homes were under contract, including five under construction, said Lori Helsley, office manager.
Active foreclosures on Tuesday were 14 in Winchester, 77 in Frederick County, 51 in Warren County, 19 in Clarke County and 28 in Shenandoah County, she said.
According to data from the TVBA, housing units grew 31.4 percent in Berryville from 2000 to 2009. In Front Royal during that same time period, they grew 8.5 percent and were up 11 percent in Winchester.
In Strasburg, housing units grew by 53.5 percent.
National builders like Richmond American, Dan Ryan Builders, Ryland Homes, Richmond Homes and Toll Brothers came in and built many of those, and some are still building, Buck said.
"At the height of the market, we saw people from Northern Virginia buying," she said.
They could get a townhome that would cost $400,000 in Washington, D.C., for $200,000 here, Buck said.
She doesn't think building reached a point of "over abundance," though.
"We don't have empty townhouses and condos," Buck said.
Investors, some local and some from the Washington area bought many for rentals -- including foreclosures after the bubble burst.
"Our market is always strong as far as rentals go," Buck said.