Staff does not like to report statistics so early in the year. Small numbers mean even a couple of sales can yield a large number as a percentage more or less. Even so, we like to see what is happening by comparing year to year activity. Our abbreviated report shows us that sales dipped a bit in January after a strong end to 2013.
Perhaps the mild weather is to blame for the slight slowdown in activity that translates to 11 fewer sales closing in January 2013. A quick review of Internet sites shows us that travel was up during the holidays this past year. Access to all points within 300 miles were relatively worry free as most mountain passes stayed warmer and roads clearer than normal throughout the peak travel times. Many who stayed home during stormy winter holidays apparently took advantage of the mild December weather to venture off to distant relatives.
Even so, our MLS average price for a single family home is up more than 15 percent from the previous year at $193,738. Many sellers are delighted to be selling their homes in a better market than even a year ago. Still, there are those who bought just before the market decline that are looking for the market average to increase a bit more before they can be made whole.
The surprising monthlong trend of downward mortgage interest rates is bound to provide some encouragement to prospective buyers and sellers as soon as the snow storms pass. Most Realtors agree that the winter so far, except for several days of sub-freezing temperatures, has been steady with inquiries and sales. With mortgage interest rates dropping again last week, now at an average of 4.23 percent for a 30-year loan, homebuyer traffic should increase along with warmer temperatures.
The drop in interest rates has been attributed to private investors turning to Treasury Bonds and mortgage-backed securities as the stock market faltered, even as the Fed scaled back their purchases. After a market rally late last week it is anybodies guess whether investors will settle back into riskier investments and slow their purchase of the securities that regulate mortgage rates. Whether or not that happens, those wishing to re-finance or obtain a mortgage are well positioned to get long-term savings on interest rates that will surely rise at some point. A $200,000 mortgage payment at 4.23 percent is $982 each month compared to $1,017 at 4.53 percent. That is a savings of $12,600 over a 30-year term.
With sales flat or slightly below last year in most areas, we can still see consistent activity that illustrates a relatively normal market. Although November sales averages on a national level declined, our November showed us well ahead of the previous year with 22 percent more activity. That is another reason we are not too concerned about a slight dip in January figures.
Home prices today, although much improved from the bottom of the market, still are affordable and will build equity over the next several years given our current trends. The 15 percent average price increase from 2012 to 2013 may not be sustainable but all signs point to continued appreciation.
Trust an expert...call a Realtor. Call your Realtor or visit www.cdarealtors.com to search properties on the Multiple Listing Service or to find a Realtor member who will represent your best interests.
Kim Cooper is a real estate broker and the spokesman for the Coeur d'Alene Association of Realtors. Kim and the association invite your feedback and input for this column. You may contact them by writing to the Coeur d'Alene Association of Realtors, 409 W. Neider, Coeur d'Alene, ID 83815 or by calling (208) 667-0664.