There were two more homes sold in the Wichita area in November than in October, according to figures from the Wichita Area Association of Realtors on Tuesday.
That's the good news.
But the bad news continues to follow a second-half 2010 trend: The 549 homes sold in November are far off the 801 sold in November 2009, the latter figure inflated, analysts say, by buyers chasing the federal homebuyer tax credits.
Of the homes sold in November, 58 were new, up 12 from October, and 491 existing, down 10 from October.
November 2009 was the last of six consecutive months of big sales numbers largely driven by the tax credits. In December 2009, sales fell off to 560 homes, numbers consistent with current trends as the first round of credits lapsed.
"Existing home sales showed the end-of-year downward trend, but we also saw a dramatic drop in existing home inventory as fewer homes were put on the market," said Tessa Hultz, CEO of the Realtors group. "It is still a buyer's market in existing homes, but not by a lot."
Hultz said new home inventories are up in the Wichita area, indicating that builders have completed a number of homes in progress this fall.
There are some signs of optimism in the market, said John McKenzie, president of Wichita's Coldwell Banker Plaza Real Estate, who says at least one major employer is recruiting again. McKenzie declined to identify the employer.
"It's one of the first pieces of good news we've had in a long time," McKenzie said.
Regionally, the story is similar to Wichita, according to Steve Murray, a Colorado-based real estate analyst who publishes the Real Trends Housing Market Report.
Sales continued to slump in the Midwest last month, down 30.6 percent from November 2009 when buyers were chasing the same round of tax credits. It's the fifth month in a row that overall housing sales fell, Real Trends said.
The only bright spot in November was a sharp rise in average prices, up 7.3 percent from November 2009. Nationally, the rate of decline was 25.7 percent, Murray said in a statement.
Housing unit sales for all regions fell in the past 12 months with the Northeast showing the greatest decline of 32.2 percent. The West had the smallest decline at 19.2 percent.
"The housing market continues to suffer the effects of record high unemployment and restrictions in the sale of foreclosed homes," Murray said.
"The halt in foreclosure proceedings appeared to have impacted sales significantly. Foreclosure and distressed home sales are a significant portion of all sales in the first 10 months of 2010, and it appears that purchasers are waiting for more inventory. The annualized rate fell 15.4 percent from last month, which indicates that housing continues to face strong obstacles in getting back to a healthy condition."