WAYNESBORO — The July real estate report for Waynesboro, Staunton and Augusta County offers signs that the beleaguered industry may have finally turned a corner. For one thing, the prices of lower-to-middle end homes — those below $350,000 — are surging, a welcome change for a market that until recently had been relatively stagnant since the nationwide housing crash nine years ago ushered in one of the worst recessions in U.S. history.
The report for July also indicates most homes for sale spent fewer days on the market, and included fewer foreclosures.
Rick Kane, president-broker of Westhills Ltd. Realtors, said those positive trends have had a downside for buyers. As homes spend less time on the market, the current inventory of houses for sale has dropped markedly. At the end of July, some 462 homes were on the market. Compare that to the inventory of more than 1,500 back in August of 2010. That the lower inventory and increased demand means buyers will naturally pay more.
During the recession, inventory in the area began to increase soon after the housing bubble crashed.
“In January 2009 we were at 498, by November 2009 we were at 1,302,” Kane said. And by August 2010, the housing inventory had increased to 1,509.
The July report compiled by Kane also shows an average 79 days on the market, and a foreclosure rate of 3.7 percent, the lowest in years. The foreclosure rate was 5.5 percent as recently as May of last year.
Kane said the local housing pictures generally mirrors the trend nationally.
“There is a rise in consumer confidence based on the improvements in the stock market,” he said.
But for the good news to continue, Kane said there must be positive news on wages and employment. While area unemployment is low in Augusta County, the most significant 2017 job increases have come in relatively lower-wage industries.
Kane said housing sales in July are positive on all fronts except for homes nearing the $400,000 or more range. “If you put something on the market above $350,000 you might get one person,” he said.
The $200,271 July average sales price is slightly down from April, but considerably higher than January’s $179,138. Sales for the year through July are up 4.6 percent in the region as compared to 2016 sales through July.
“The lower price ranges are in a seller’s market,” Kane said.
He said a good sale or new home build in the area would be in the $225,000 to $250,000 range, with three bedrooms, two baths and 1,200 to 1,400 square feet.
The statewide housing report for July, released by Virginia Realtors, also had a positive report.
The year-to-date volume rose 9.7 percent over the same period in 2016. The statewide median sales price in July 2017 was $295,000, an increase of 6 percent from the median price of July 2016.
Claire Forcier-Rowe, the 2017 president of Virginia Realtors, said in a release that “low rates and lasting consumer confidence have propelled buyers into Virginia’s market faster than sellers are committing to list their properties.”
She said “there’s a premium on new inventory that’s evident in the price trends and speed of transactions this year.”