The housing market is so hot in Limestone County right now, Realtor Chris McNatt was able to sell two homes in four hours and one home six hours after it was posted online.
Athens and Limestone County residential sales totaled 166 units during March, up 16.1% from 143 sales in the same month a year earlier, according to ValleyMLS.com. March sales were up 13.7% compared to 146 sales in February. Results were 47.4% above the five-year March average of 113 sales.
The cost of a home is increasing, which is good news for sellers. The statewide median sales price is up 3.6% year-to-date, according to ValleyMLS.com.
Realtors don’t see the market slowing down any time soon.
“I don’t see it changing due to the businesses and industries coming in,” said McNatt, of McNatt Real Estate and Auction in Athens.
Mazda-Toyota Manufacturing USA is one of those, with a $1.6 billion facility set to begin production in 2021 in Huntsville-annexed Limestone County. MTMUS and its suppliers have already announced the need for thousands of employees — many of whom will need houses.
Despite the great need, Athens and Limestone County don’t have enough homes to go around. McNatt said if housing inventories were what we had in the past, this would be the best time ever as far as total sales.
“Buyers are standing in line, competing over a fresh, hot listing and creating multiple offers,” McNatt said. “We have been in competition with other buyers and have had six and eight other offers from both buyers and sellers.”
Although nationwide inventory levels are trending upward, Alabama’s residential listings decreased 11.3% from one year ago, according to ValleyMLS.com. Low inventory levels were a significant factor contributing to rising sales prices throughout 2018 and in the spring buying season of 2019.
With low inventory levels, it is not surprising to see homes selling more quickly than in previous years. Homes selling in Alabama during March spent an average of 99 days on the market, an improvement of 19 days from March 2018.
Lack of home choices is a problem only for homebuyers, who have to act fast if they find a home they want. They can expect competition from other homebuyers to drive up the price.
A shortage of homes also means prospective buyers should get prequalified for a loan before proceeding. That will tell you your price range.
“If you see a listing on MLS (the Multiple Listing Service), you better go get on it within four to six hours. You better not wait and see it later this weekend,” McNatt said.
He said it is important to hire a Realtor when house-hunting, because “a good Realtor will keep the buyer in the realm of what the house is actually worth. We would advise the buyer to come in at or over list price only if the comparables (homes with similar characteristics) bear that the house is worth that.”
The current demand for homes is good news for homebuilders.
“The demand is pushing the building process because if buyers can’t get the existing home they need, they may decide to build,” McNatt said.
Population growth has long been heaviest in eastern Limestone County, but the demand is all over the county, he said.
Competition for homes drives prices up, and that’s good news for sellers.
The Athens median sales price in March was $212,262, an increase of 1.1% from one year ago and a decrease of 2.3% from the prior month, according to ValleyMLS.com.
“The market is particularly good for sellers, who are getting at or over their asking price due to buyer demand,” said McNatt, a 16-year veteran of the real estate business.
“It makes a seller feel really good when you can bring them three to six offers in an hour,” McNatt said.
Conversely, he said “it makes it trying for a homebuyer sometimes because they look at six to eight properties that go under contract in just a few hours.”