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VOL. 36 | NO. 50 | Friday, December 14, 2012

Midstate home sales jump 38% as cliff looms

By Bill Lewis

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If America tumbles over the fiscal cliff at the end of this month, many of us are going to do it in a new house.

Home sales in the Nashville region were up 38 percent in November, an increase that might have been sparked at least in part by the inability so far of the White House and the GOP to reach agreement on how to begin reducing the national debt. If they can’t do so by the end of the year, the fiscal cliff – a series of automatic spending cuts and tax increases – will kick in.

“We have a huge fiscal cliff facing us in two or three weeks, and no one is doing anything about it,” says Phillip Cantrell, CEO and founder of Benchmark Realty.

He believes that many home buyers and sellers are making an end-of-the-year rush to complete their transactions before the nation plunges over the fiscal cliff, which the Congressional Budget Office warns could cause another recession.

“Where there is demand, that demand is driven by future uncertainty, the certainty that taxes are going to go up and the knowledge that interest rates can’t stay this low,” Cantrell says.

Keller Williams Realty Broker Amy Hamilton, on the other hand, says buyers and sellers are genuinely feeling better about the future.

“There is a lot more confidence among consumers,” she says. “It wouldn’t matter if interest rates were 1 percent. If people didn’t have confidence, they wouldn’t take the plunge.”

And that’s exactly what they were doing throughout the Nashville region in November. There were 2,198 home closings last month, according to the GNAR, the Greater Nashville Association of Realtors. In November 2011, there were 1,592 closings.

There were 1,004 home sales in Davidson County last month, a 33.2 percent increase of the 754 sales reported in November 2011. The average price last month was $195,509. A year earlier it was $187,089, according to a market survey by Chandler Reports.

Some neighborhoods were especially active. In the 37212 ZIP code (Hillsboro-West End), the average price jumped more than 85 percent to $594,018. In November 2011 it was $319,938. There were 21 sales in the neighborhood last month, just one more than the 20 sales in November 2011.

In East Nashville’s 37206, 59 homes were sold last month, a 47.5 percent increase over the 40 sales recorded a year earlier. The average price was $197,259, a 20.4 percent increase over the average price of $163,887 in November 2011.

In Williamson County, 401 homes changed hands last month, 45.8 percent more than in November 2011, when there were 275 sales. The average price increased almost 6 percent to $368,937. A year ago it was $348,753, according to Chandler Reports.

In Spring Hill, the fast-growing town in southern Williamson County, there were 73 sales last month, 108.6 percent more than the 35 sales reported in November 2011. The average price was up almost 23 percent to $238,156. The price was $193,708 in November 2011.

Sales were up more than 14 percent last month in Rutherford County, where 385 closings were reported by Chandler Reports. There were 336 closings in the same month last year. The average price last month was $161,202. That was 1.6 percent more than the $158,733 price reported in November 2011.

In Murfreesboro’s 37128 ZIP code, sales and prices were both up. There were 97 closings in the neighborhood last month, 40.6 percent more than the 69 reported in November 2011. Last month’s average price was $191,141. That was 8.3 percent higher than the $176,485 reported a year earlier.

Sales in Wilson County last month were 20.5 percent higher than in November 2011. Last month 194 sales were reported. A year earlier there were 161. Last month’s average price was $192,528, a 4.4 percent increase over November 2011’s average of $184,501.

Lebanon’s 37087 ZIP code was particularly strong. There were 64 sales last month, 45.5 percent more than the 44 sales reported in November 2011. The average price was up 12.3 percent to $169,770. A year ago the average price was $151,148.

This year “has been a year of meaningful improvement for home sales. These numbers are evidence that the market in this region is improving on a more consistent basis,” says GNAR President Kendra Cooke.