Area home sales hit 4-year low

New and existing home sales in the Wichita area plummeted to a four-year low in January.

Sales totaled 346 in January, exactly half of what they were in January 2007, according to figures the Wichita Area Association of Realtors and the South Central Kansas Multiple Listing Service released Wednesday.

There were 560 houses sold in December and 413 sold in January 2009.

"You just have to chalk all of this up to the fact the economy's struggling and it's hurt a lot of industries, including the housing industry," said Dave Neal, whose Keller Williams group specializes in new home sales.

Tessa Hultz, the new CEO of the Wichita Area Association of Realtors, said the decline represents the normal seasonal falloff seen in the coldest winter months.

It's in line, she said, with the 34 percent decrease in existing home sales from December 2008 to January 2009.

"This year the tax credit deadline has had to contend with heavier than normal snows and bitter cold, gray days for the last two months," Hultz said.

"When we start seeing more sunshine and warmer daytime temperatures, buyers that had been holding back will come out in time to take advantage of the tax credit."

The median sales price of existing homes was up 7.2 percent from a year ago.

"And there is good news for sellers in the January numbers — both existing and new home sales prices have moved up during this same time period," Hultz said.

Only 39 new houses were sold in January, one of the lowest numbers in recent history. New home inventories are down 29.5 percent from January 2009, to 553 homes from 784 last year.

Existing home inventories were up 7.9 percent in January to 3,388 homes from 3,141 in December.

Neal said the new homes sector hasn't benefited from the homebuyer tax credits.

"It's been neutral with the credit," he said. "Not good but not bad."