Buyers could not get enough of the High Country real estate market in 2016.
Sales were up tremendously, surpassing totals recorded each of the last nine years. The trend seemed to accelerate each month, as year-to-year activity increased through the final months of the year.
Low interest rates attracted a lot of buyers. Inventory barely kept pace. There were as many as 2,970 active listings during the busy summer season. As 2017 began, local Realtors had less than 2,000 homes on the market, the fewest at this time in four years.
That mark is due to the busiest year since at least 2007. Last year, local Realtors sold 2,124 homes worth $525.75 million, according to the High Country Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which records all Realtor transactions in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties.
Those sales were a 25 percent increase over 2015, when 1,700 homes were sold, and a 44.5 percent increase over 2014 (1,470). Going back further, 2016 sales were up at least 16 percent compared to 2007, the year prior to the collapse of the national housing market (The High Country MLS was then comprised of just Watauga and Avery counties).
As activity has tracked steadily upward, prices remained attractive to buyers. Last year the median sold price – the midpoint at which half of all sales were either above or below – was $205,000. That’s well below the $230,000 median sold price recorded in 2007, and less than the median sold price from 2011 ($205,000).
The High Country MLS ended 2016 with 1,900 active listings, less than 2015’s final inventory level (2,150). There were 2,250 active listing at the end of 2014.
With regard to monthly sales, local Realtors sold 173 homes worth $45.6 million in December. That was easily the busiest December in recent memory, surpassing the average 108 homes sold that month since 2007.
The median sold price for December was $225,000.
That month capped a busy end to the year. From September through December, local Realtors sold 827 homes. That was 28 percent more than were sold in the four-county area during that same time span in 2015 (645).
That activity came as interest rates have climbed from the near-lows recorded most of 2016.
As of January 26, the average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage was 4.19 percent. That was down from the 4.32 percent rate recorded the final week of 2016, and higher than the 3.79 percent rate recorded a year ago.
The latest average rate on a 15-year fixed rate was 3.4 percent, down from 3.55 percent the final week of 2016.
According to the National Association of Realtors, sales for 2016 are expected to be 3.3 percent higher than 2015 and reach around 5.42 million – the best year since 2006 (6.47 million). In 2017, sales are forecast to grow roughly 2 percent to around 5.52 million.
“Although the economy is expected to continue to expand with around 2 million net new job creations, existing home sales are expected to see little expansion next year because of affordability tensions from rising mortgage rates and prices continuing to outpace income growth,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.