Rutherford leads Midstate's January real estate resurgence

Friday, February 17, 2012, Vol. 36, No. 7
By Bill Lewis

Mortgage interest rates are at all-time lows, sellers are willing to make deals and many landlords are raising rents. Those factors have convinced growing numbers of people that now is a good time to buy a home.

“It’s the perfect storm,” says Re/Max Realtor John Ehlers.

He’s especially active in Rutherford County, where home sales were almost 42 percent higher last month than in January 2011.

That trend was mirrored in much of the Nashville-area housing market. In Davidson County, home sales were up more than 33 percent. In Williamson County, sales were up 3.2 percent. Only Wilson County saw a decline. January 2012 sales were 6.1 percent lower than a year earlier, a market survey by Chandler Reports reveals.

There were 1,377 closings reported in January throughout the multi-county Nashville market, according to the Greater Nashville Association of Realtors, up 25 percent from the 1,101 closings reported a year ago.

“The New Year has started with positive news for home sales in the greater Nashville area,” GNAR President Kendra Cooke says. “January home sales have increased each year since 2009, and January also marks the first year-over-year double-digit increase since 2005.”

The market still faces challenges, including stringent mortgage lending requirements, but Cooke is optimistic.

“However, new and expanding businesses and a strengthening economy in our region, along with campaigns like “Business is Good” by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce give us reason to be positive,” she says.

There were 686 home sales last month in Davidson County, compared with 515 a year ago. The average price was $187,282, more than 6 percent higher than January 2011’s average price of $175,400, according to Chandler Reports.

The 37205 ZIP code, which includes Belle Meade and West End neighborhoods, saw a triple-digit increase in sales. There were 37 closings in the area last month, an increase of 131 percent over the 16 closings in January 2011. Last month’s average price was $433,406, almost 12 percent higher than the average price of $387,494 a year ago.

In the 37215 ZIP code in Green Hills, home sales increased more than 63 percent. Last month 36 homes changed hands compared with 22 in January 2011. The average price jumped almost 41 percent to $655,486. A year ago the average price was $465,590.

Builders have been active in the neighborhood – on Glen Echo Road near the Green Hills Library, for example – constructing luxury infill homes on vacant lots or lots where smaller houses once stood.

“This part of Area 2 is fantastic,” says Village Real Estate Services Realtor John Brittle. “People have their confidence back.”

In Antioch’s 37013 ZIP code, sales increased 50 percent. Last month 87 homes were sold at an average price of $116,475. In January 2011, there were 58 sales for an average of $108,157.

In the 37212 ZIP code, which includes the Hillsboro-West End neighborhoods, sales were up more than 58 percent. Last month there were 19 closings, compared with 12 a year ago. The average price was up 13.5 percent to $370,410. A year ago the average price in the neighborhood was $326,348.

“I have encouraging feelings in the new year,” Parks Properties Realtor Frances Garner says.

The slowly-improving economy is encouraging buyers who had been putting off purchasing a house, she says. Now they are ready to buy.

“People are feeling better,” says Garner. “People are tired of being austere.”

In suburban Williamson County, there were 195 sales last month, 3.2 percent more than in January 2011 when there were 189 sales. Prices headed the other direction, however. The average price declined more than 6 percent to $370,902. It was $397,466 in January 2011.

The market was strongest in southern Williamson County. Sales were up 150 percent in Spring Hill, where 35 houses were sold. In January 2011 there were 14 sales. Prices rose almost 8 percent to $230,864. The average price a year ago was $214,637.

Sales in Thompson’s Station were up 60 percent. There were 16 sales for an average price of $185,000. In January 2011 there were 10 sales at an average price of $180,052.

In Wilson County, the number of sales and the average price both declined. There were 108 sales in January 2012 for an average price of $183,710. A year ago there were 115 sales for an average price of $195,077.

The region’s housing market is much healthier than in many other areas of the country, says Fridrich & Clark Realtor Mike Gallagher.

“Life is good here because it’s affordable,” he says.