Wichita area home sales drop for second month

The Wichita Eagle

Home sales in the Wichita area declined for the second consecutive month, according the South Central Kansas Multiple Listing Service’s sales report for February.

The report, released on Monday, said a total of 503 houses were sold last month, compared with 546 in the same month a year ago.

The number of new houses sold in February increased by three – to 26 – while the number of existing houses fell by 46 to 477.

The decline in February’s home sales follows a year-over-year sales decline in January, when the number of houses sold was 514, compared with 516 in January 2013.

But Realtors believe weather, more than any other factor, contributed to fewer February sales.

“You can’t expect people to be out looking at houses in the snow,” said Greg Fox, broker and owner of Realty World Alliance and the 2014 president of the MLS.

Jordan Freed, CEO of Keller Williams Signature Partners, said he was at a national real estate conference last month and learned there that the home sales market has been “sliding backwards” since the fourth quarter of 2013.

The cause? Weather.

“I just don’t see anything to cause it to move backward other than the weather,” Freed said.

And it’s not just the snow, but the cold temperatures that keep people from going out to look at houses – and from listing them, because selling generally requires owners to do some outside work to prepare their homes for the market.

“The amount of snow we had, the amount of cold we had, doesn’t make people want to go out and look for houses,” Freed said.

According to data from the National Weather Service’s Wichita office, there was 13.1 inches of snow in February and nine days where the high temperature was at or below freezing. In February 2012, the data said, Wichita snowfall totaled 21.2 inches and there were three days with high temperatures at or below freezing.

Fox said he’s hearing a lot of talk from agents at his firm and others across the city that they are busy with paperwork for listings and sales.

“What I’m feeling now is a speed-up (in activity),” he said.

Freed said warmer weather will relieve pent-up demand that’s been building the past two months.

“My guess is by the end of March we’ll start to see the market pick up,” Freed said.

The February report also showed the numbers of existing houses on the market were increasing, continuing a trend that started in January. The months of inventory was 5.8 in February for existing houses. A months-of-inventory figure between five and six months indicates a balanced home sales market that favors neither the buyer nor seller. Last December, the area’s months of inventory was 4.6 months. In January it rose to 5.7 months.

Inventory for new houses took a bigger jump, from 6.2 months in January to 10.6 months in February. Fox said the higher new house inventory doesn’t concern him because that number reflects new homes that are starting to be built that already have a buyer or will be built as spec homes, most of which would likely sell before the end of summer.