Midwest’s pending home sales rise

Pending Midwest home sales were up in February, the latest indicator of what economists are calling a slow but steady housing market recovery.

The National Association of Realtors’ Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, jumped 6.5 percent in the region to 93.8 in February, and is 19 percent higher than in February 2011.

Nationally, the index remained basically flat, sliding a half-percent to 96.5 in February but remaining 9.2 percent above February 2011.

Local brokers reported increased traffic and contracts in February, driven by growing consumer confidence and the unusually mild winter.

“As long as there’s not a huge slaughter in (aviation) layoffs, I’m pretty excited,” said Brodrick Jayroe, president of Wichita’s Realty Executives. “We’ve been pretty steady. I didn’t notice a huge drop or decline in February.”

Sales volume was up 5 percent in February at Coldwell Banker Plaza Real Estate, said company president John McKenzie.

“Closed units were down slightly, but new contracts pending are up over the same time last year, indicating a large pickup in consumer confidence,” McKenzie said.

The reasons for the improved market are clear, said Willie Kihle, president of Prudential Dinning-Beard Realtors, the city’s second-largest brokerage.

“The weather. Rates are great but rumored to go up, and that always spurs interest,” he said. “Activity is good, and we’re even seeing more in the new homes area.”

Jayroe said low-end homes continue to sell well in the Wichita market, with inventories beginning to grow in other price sectors in the wake of the Boeing departure next year.

“We’re hitting a whole bunch of 75s to a buck and a quarter,” he said. “We do have some $300,000, $400,000 and $500,000s under contract.”

He also thinks that new home sales will perk up in Wichita in the wake of the five-year, 100 percent property tax and special assessments rebate approved by the Wichita City Council and the Wichita Area Builders Association to the first 1,000 new home builders.

“When you can take a guy who the specials are the only thing stopping him from buying a new home, and show him that with those incentives you can buy new for a used price, it’s a powerful tool,” Jayroe said.

Lawrence Yun, the NAR’s chief economist, said in a statement that the market continues to rise unevenly.

“The spring home buying season looks bright because of an elevated level of contract offers so far this year,” Yun said. “If activity is sustained near present levels, existing home sales will see their best performance in five years.”

NAR officials are forecasting a 7 to 10 percent sales rise in 2012.