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Real estate market trends are positive

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The real estate market in the Monett area showed surprising strength in 2011, improving slightly from sales in 2010. Realtor Keith McCracken, with Century21 Realty, expects trends, which made buying a house particularly attractive in 2011, to continue. McCracken had a positive view of business heading into 2012.

McCracken, whose wife, Brenda, serves as president of the Southwest Missouri Board of Realtors, has worked in real estate for over 30 years. The biggest factor he saw impacting the Multi-Listing Service (MLS) for the area was the lack of new home construction. Only a couple of new homes were built in Monett this year. Only four newly constructed houses are on the market at the present time.

"With the absence of new homes being built, our inventory is pre-owned homes," McCracken said. "We have home inventory available across the board in all price ranges. Sales in 2011 were a little better than the year before."

In the MLS territory, which extends from Washburn north to Mt. Vernon, and from Granby east to Springfield, the largest number of homes were sold in the $100,000-or-less category. Upperend sales continued as well, with 15 houses closing between $200,000 and $500,000.

"In general, our area was pretty solid," McCracken said. "I read the national news daily on trends in property sales. We don't fluctuate like that. It's all based on jobs, which we have here."

McCracken sees conditions remaining very favorable for home purchases.

"Interest rates are incredibly low," McCracken said. "I'm showing my age at how long I've been in this business, but I'm amazed at the rate you can borrow money at now. As we look back in five years, we'll see this as an incredible opportunity. Hopefully, we won't have missed out on it. Now is the time to buy."

The home purchasing process involves several steps. There have been more cash sales during the past year, McCracken said. Generally the easiest sales involve buyers who get pre-approved for a loan before shopping for a house. Most people looking for homes have not done that.

"Being a buyer that has good credit and has been diligent about saving money and qualifying for a loan is harder," McCracken said. "Lenders want a higher credit score than in previous years. They want a good work record. They want to see that the house you want is in your budget and that you can afford this home."

Another factor that has proven difficult involves appraisers assessing a sale after a buyer, seller and lender have come to an agreement. McCracken said appraisers coming from another town may not see the market the same way. Using a repossessed home for comparison, for example, can result in a lower value. The buyer may have to bring more to the table or the seller could back out.

"Appraisals can be difficult," McCracken said. "It kills a few deals, not a lot."

A major aid in closing sales continues to be financing programs available.

"FHA and Veterans Administration benefits are still wonderful programs," McCracken said. "[The Department of Agriculture's] Rural Development [program] is still terrific. One hundred percent loans are still available. There are good loans for good buyers.

"As realtors, we spend a good deal of time matching programs and lenders with buyers," McCracken continued. "It takes more time on our part to do that. To get pre-qualified involves finding a program that fits the buyer's needs and that they qualify for.

"The good lenders are good at helping buyers improve their credit score," McCracken said. "They'll say, 'This is what to do so in six months, you may qualify for a loan.' That's a great service. We're still teaching some buyers what's required."

At the present time, McCracken said rental properties are hard to find and rent is going up, reflecting a demand market. He recommended talking to a realtor about the option of buying a home and said the answers may be surprising.

A recent addition to area real estate trends has been an increased interest in farmland. McCracken said he worked with a couple from Wichita, Kan., last week who were looking for 100 acres for a poultry farm. He recently had a couple from Texas in the area interested in relocating away from the drought conditions that have curtailed the cattle industry there.

"Local farmers are doing well," McCracken said. "Cattle prices are up, and operations are expanding. We are advertising for farmland. We have more buyers than sellers. I expect interest in farmland will continue."

McCracken said the biggest factor holding down property sales at the present time is confidence. He said if people would stop listening to reports about the national economy and weigh the local market, they will see encouraging signs to act now.

"All across the board, I see signs of strength for our market," McCracken said. "And Monett is a great place to be. Our jobs seem to be steady. We've got the houses."

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