State bucks trend in home sales

Sales of existing homes in Iowa were up 4.1 percent during the April-June quarter, the second-fastest growth rate in the country, a real estate trade group reported Wednesday.

The Iowa sales bucked the national trend. Sales fell in 41 states, and home prices were down in one-third of the metropolitan areas surveyed by the National Association of Realtors. The national downturn is the worst in 16 years, the group said.

The fact that sales in Iowa are still growing reflects that the state’s homes are more affordable and that its economy remains reasonably strong, said Mike Knapp, president of Iowa Realty Co.

“All the factors that lead to a good, stable market are here,” Knapp said. “Homes are affordably priced, and there is still great financing available.”

While statewide sales were up for the second quarter, earlier reports indicated that metro sales were weaker for April, May and June than for the same months in 2006.

Still, Knapp said, when 2007 is over, “I expect it to look a lot like 2006” in terms of overall sales for Iowa Realty, which is the largest broker of residential property in Iowa.

The national median sales price in the second quarter was $223,800, down 1.5 percent from the figure for spring 2006.

The median sales price in Des Moines was $147,700, down 0.1 percent from $147,800 in the second quarter of 2006.

Nationally, Wyoming had the biggest sales increase, a rise of 10.8 percent in the second quarter of this year compared with the second quarter of 2006. Sales in North Dakota rose by 2.9 percent, the third-strongest gain.

Officials of the National Association of Realtors said they saw some glimmers of hope in the second-quarter data. They noted that existing home prices were up in 97 of the 149 metropolitan areas surveyed compared with the sales prices of a year ago.

That represented price gains for 65 percent of the areas surveyed, an improvement from the first quarter of this year when only about 55 percent of the metropolitan areas reported price gains from the same period a year ago. In the fourth quarter of last year, less than half of the metropolitan areas reported price gains.

“Although home prices are relatively flat, more metro areas are showing price gains with general improvement since bottoming out in the fourth quarter of 2006,” said Lawrence Yun, senior economist for the National Association of Realtors.

The states suffering the biggest drop in sales in the second quarter, compared with the same period a year ago, were Florida, down 41.3 percent, and Nevada, down 37.5 percent. Other states with big declines were Arizona, down 23.4 percent; Tennessee, down 21.5 percent; Maryland, down 21.1 percent; and California, down 19.8 percent.

Six states showed sales increases during the second quarter, while one state reported no change. Data were incomplete for two states, the Realtors reported.

Nationwide, sales of existing homes totaled 5.91 million units at an annual rate in the second quarter, down 10.8 percent from the sales pace of the second quarter of 2006.

The Des Moines Register

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