Prime locations see drop in sale prices

Friday, December 16, 2011, Vol. 35, No. 50
By Bill Lewis

The key to selling a house used to be location, location, location. But as the housing downturn drags on, the key has become price, condition and, coming in last, location.

“Buyers are afraid to overpay,” Village Real Estate Realtor Newell Anderson says.

That helps explain why even in Nashville’s upscale Belle Meade neighborhood, the average price of a home declined more than 14 percent in November while the number of sales rose 48 percent. In the traditionally strong Williamson County market, home prices dropped by more than 15 percent while the number of sales rose 7.4 percent, a survey by Chandler Reports shows.

Instead of competing with one another for homes in hot neighborhoods, buyers often won’t even look at homes they believe are overpriced. And when they do look, home shoppers expect the house to be in perfect condition and have updates such as granite countertops and stainless appliances.

If they can’t get what they want in one house in the neighborhood where they want to live, they know there’s usually another one, possibly a lower-priced foreclosure or short sale, down the street or on the next block.

“People have a lot to pick from,” says Keller Williams Realtor Marcie Sweet, who has managed the sale of foreclosed homes in Belle Meade and other affluent neighborhoods.

“Everybody wants a good deal,” Sweet says. “Otherwise, you’re not going to sell.”

In the traditionally strong Williamson County housing market, there were 275 sales in November 2011, compared with 256 sales in November 2010. The average price was $348,753, a 15.6 percent decline from the average price of $413,441 a year ago, according to Chandler Reports.

Williamson County buyers were purchasing larger houses but paying less. The average home sold last month had 2,930 square feet and brought $115 per square foot. The average house in November 2010 had 2,773 square feet and sold for $141 per square foot.

In all of Williamson County, Nolensville was the only place where prices went up. In that area on the Williamson-Davidson County line, the average price last month was $319,549, a 7.6 percent increase over November 2010’s price of $296,922. The number of sales in Nolensville rose more than 30 percent to 17 homes.

In Davidson County, 749 homes changed hands last month, 20 percent more than the 624 sales in November 2010. Last month’s average price was $187,773, a 5.9 percent increase over last year’s average price of $177,317.

Sales in Goodlettsville, which straddles the Davidson-Sumner County line, were particularly strong. Sales rose more than 83 percent last month, to 22, and the average price rose more than 28 percent to $187,868. In November 2010 there were 12 sales at an average price of $146,567.

The 37206 zip code in East Nashville was another bright spot last month. Sales were up more than 17 percent, and the average price was up more than 22 percent. A total of 40 homes changed hands for an average price of $163,887 last month. In November 2010, 34 houses were sold at an average price of $133,749.

Anderson says parts of East Nashville have a problem that hasn’t existed in years – not enough homes for sale.

“I’ve got a couple (of buyers) itching to buy something, and they can’t find it,” he says.

In Bellevue, sales were up 22.5 percent last month to 49, compared with 40 sales a year ago. The average price last month was up almost 30 percent, to $204,141. In November 2010 the average price was $157,573.

In Old Hickory there were 23 sales, a 109 percent increase from a year ago. The average price last month was $90,907, a 19.4 percent increase from November 2010’s average of $76,107.

East of Nashville in Wilson County, 161 homes were sold last month, a 6.6 percent increase over the 151 sales in November 2010. Last month’s average price, $184,501, was 10.4 percent lower than the average price of $205,845 in November 2010.

“It’s about price and condition, not so much location,” Sweet says of today’s market. “You can move anything at the right price.”