An unusually warm March proved to be a good month to buy and sell houses in Wichita, fueling optimism that the local market is improving.
Sales were up 11.1 percent year over year, according to figures released Friday by the Wichita Area Association of Realtors and the South Central Kansas Multiple Listing Service.
The good news: A total of 658 new and existing homes were sold in March, up from March 2011’s total of 593. The sales total is the largest number since last September, when sales hit 693 units, and it finishes out the best first quarter since 2008, said Tessa Hultz, chief executive of the Realtors association.
“Overall the Wichita housing market is looking good,” Hultz said.
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Gary Walker, residential general manager at J.P. Weigand & Sons, called the March performance further proof that the Wichita market is bouncing back.
“These results are right in line with what most of us have been saying for the past year, that barring some unforeseen economic factor, the tide is turning in 2012,” Walker said. “There are no tax incentives distorting the figures, buyers and sellers recognize that this is a very good time to move ahead with the plans they’ve had on hold since 2008, and interest rates are still very low.”
With the increase in sales, the inventory of homes on the market continues to decline. The total sales numbers (combined existing and new) were up 11 percent compared with March of last year, and the total inventory (combined existing and new) is down 19 percent to six months.
The bad news: New home sales remained extremely soft in March, with 36 sold, up eight from February but up only three homes from March 2011.
Existing home inventories are balancing out, according to the WAAR report, with 5.9 months of inventory on the market. New home inventories remain high, with eight months available, the report indicates.
Walker said he’s even more convinced that the Wichita housing market has turned the corner.
“I would expect this trend to continue throughout the year,” he said. “I really believe the worst is over, and the reports we are receiving confirm that.”