Warm winter may be a factor as Wichita-area pending home sales level off

The uptick in Wichita area home sales is leveling off a bit, and may be directly tied to a balmy winter.

April pending sales appear consistent with March, local brokers say.

Nationally, data show March pending sales were on the rise and well above a year ago, the National Association of Realtors reports.

First, the local story: The usual influx of Wichita spring buyers got their start in March, with preliminary April figures – some of the city’s biggest-volume agents haven’t reported to brokers yet – looking flat.

“I think the answer for April’s numbers is pretty simple: We had an early spring market because of the weather,” said Gary Walker, residential general manager for J.P. Weigand & Sons, the city’s largest brokerage.

“As you know, the first quarter was up considerably over last year, so some of the activity we would normally expect during the second quarter came early.”

Sales were up slightly in April at Coldwell Banker Plaza, president John McKenzie said. But he said he anticipates that sales will start to flatten in May and June.

“April has been a good month,” McKenzie said. “I look for the next two months to hold the line. The fourth quarter will be a true test of how the industry’s year shapes up.”

It may have been the best month at Prudential Dinning-Beard, where sales were up almost 25 percent, said president Willie Kihle.

“It was a good month, but you hate to put too much stock in one month because May might be down for the reason that April was that good,” Kihle said.

Nationally, pending sales rose in March to their highest level since April 2010, according to the national Realtors group.

“First-quarter sales closings were the highest first quarter sales in five years,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, in a statement. “The housing market has clearly turned the corner. Rising sales are bringing down inventory and creating much more balanced conditions around the county, which means home prices will be rising in more areas as the year progresses.”

The remainder of the year will rest on economic performance, Walker said.

“The economy is still struggling, but it’s improved,” he said. “Wichita’s economy is no exception, with a mixture of positive economic news mixed with the effects of Boeing’s announced departure, Cessna layoffs and Hawker reorganization.

“We never really expected a return to 2007 to occur overnight, and the turnaround will most likely be slow but steady,” Walker said. “The first four months of this year in residential real estate reflect that.”