Wednesday, May 08, 2013 12:06 AM
Wilson County home sales climb
Wilson County sees steady growth as market rebounds from 2008 collapse
By Corey Friedman | Times Online Editor
More people are buying houses, but Wilson County residents are more likely to stay in a starter home than trade up as the market continues to rebound.
Sales figures show steady growth from 2012, but real estate agents say the 2008 market collapse has made once-bullish buyers cautious.
"The first buyer is staying in their first home longer even as it gets a little smaller for them,” said Will Winslow, president of the Wilson County Board of Realtors. "I think there is some wariness in the existing market. I think we’re seeing a more conservative buyer.”
Wilson County real estate agents sold 163 single-family homes for a combined $19 million between Jan. 1 and April 30, up from 148 homes for $17.9 million during the same four-month period in 2012, according to Board of Realtors data.
Expansion in Wilson County’s rural and small-town markets made up for a slight decrease in home sales within the city of Wilson, but the difference — 119 city homes sold for $14.6 million this year versus 123 homes sold for $14.9 million in 2012 — is not statistically significant.
Foreclosures and older homes are selling better than more expensive new construction. Twenty-one of the houses bought this year sold for less than $30,000, and only seven homes priced at $250,000 and above changed hands.
"We’re busy, but we’re not doing the $200,000 custom presale, which is easy to do,” said Winslow, a Realtor at the Chesson Agency in Wilson. "We’re doing the $80,000 house that’s 35 years old. We’re probably working harder to make the deals work, but it’s better now than what it was.”
Price seems to be driving Wilson County home sales, with more buyers asking about foreclosures and short sales and fewer with their heart set on a dream home.
"You’ll find people who don’t necessarily buy the house they fall in love with,” Winslow said. "They’re more likely to buy the house where they can get the best deal.”
Property values plunged in May 2008, and while the outlook has improved, some homes will take years to regain their pre-collapse values.
"In 2010, most pieces of new construction were worth less than before,” Winslow said. "That’s never happened before, so it’s made people nervous.”
Some prospective buyers are apprehensive about trading up because they don’t want to sell their homes for less than they paid. But Winslow said homeowners who will take a small loss could be in store for bigger savings on their next purchase.
"Part of what I’ll remind folks is if you’ve got a $120,000 house to sell that you can only get 115 for, you might be buying a $200,000 house for $180,000,” he explained. "You’re not going to be able to sell in a sellers’ market and buy in a buyers’ market at the same time.”
Homebuyers who would prefer new construction over an older home may find the best deals now. Winslow said a steep climb in material costs over the past 6-8 months will drive higher prices for new houses.
"New-construction prices are going to be going up, which should help the existing market,” he said.
Higher construction costs and less demand for brand-new homes has cut down on the number of new houses being built.
"That part of the market has slowed down,” Winslow said. "The smaller builders are not building spec houses anymore.”
Winslow said home prices are beginning to rise and those waiting in the wings for the best deal should seize the opportunity.
"In Wilson, I’d say we’ve probably seen prices hit bottom,” he said. "You’re getting as good a buy on houses right now as you’re going to get.”
Most buyers should be prepared to make at least a 3 ½ percent down payment — the minimum required for Federal Housing Administration-backed mortgages. Some lenders are requiring 5 or 10 percent down.
Winslow said tighter lending standards might delay some would-be buyers, but they aren’t likely to hurt the housing market.
"You’ll hear a lot of folks that blame it on that, but I don’t think that’s the worst thing,” he said. "I don’t think loosening it is the answer. The looser standards is what got us in trouble in the first place.”
Winslow said market conditions may be advantageous to buyers, but they pose a challenge for real estate agents.
"It’s not as easy,” he said. "We’re working harder and making a little less.”
Sales will continue to pick up and homes will increase in value as more people discover Wilson County, Winslow predicts.
"We are kind of centrally located and we’re here with good values, especially compared to the Triangle,” he said. "You can buy more house for your money.”
Buyers hesitant to wade into the housing market today, Winslow said, will probably come around as the outlook continues to improve.
"I think most folks still understand that over the long haul, real estate is still going to be a good investment,” he said.
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