Home sales up from a year ago

Desiree Mahr

Home sales in Alabama for January 2010 were up 4.4 percent in comparison with January 2009, according to the monthly report of the University’s Alabama Center for Real Estate.

Sales in January 2010, however, were down 28.4 percent in comparison with December 2009. According to Grayson Glaze, executive director of ACRE, this drop in home sales is normal.

“In January, after the Christmas shopping, consumers in general tend to spend more time getting their household finances back in order for the new year while temporarily hitting the pause button on house hunting,” Glaze said in an e-mail. “As a result, you typically see less active buyers in the marketplace.”

Glaze said there is a relatively predictable pattern in home sales. The increase and decrease in home sales follows closely with the changing seasons, with spring and summer representing peak periods for sales transactions.

“The weather is much more conducive for house hunting and days are longer – more daylight – which provides for more opportunities to show property after normal working hours and weekends,” Glaze said.

However, because of the tax credit that is being offered to homebuyers this year, the pattern of home sales may be slightly altered. Glaze said he anticipates the execution of sale contracts to rise in March and April as buyers engage the market at an earlier time than the traditional spring and summer seasons.

Glaze said the month-to-month changes in the rate of home sales will not disappear, but that the underlying trends associated with Alabama housing statistics will continue to indicate gradual progress.

“During the fourth quarter of 2009, the Tuscaloosa real estate market experienced an 8.75 percent positive year-over-year percent sales gain,” Glaze said. “Yet, one must be mindful that this improvement and those that may occur during the first quarter of 2010 does come off extremely low levels of activity from last year.”

The home sales statistics from one month alone will not make or break the balance of this year, Glaze said. Rather, the trends in the statistics from season to season will have the most impact on the year’s sales predictions. Monthly reports from January, February and March will show how successful or unsuccessful home sales may be this year.

“Over the long haul, Tuscaloosa will remain a statewide market leader despite the softer than normal short-term sales velocity,” Glaze said.

Johanna Shirley, president of the Tuscaloosa Real Estate Association, said Tuscaloosa has always had a steady housing market, even with the recent trouble with the economy.

“We have so many opportunities for employment with DCH, Mercedes and the University of Alabama,” Shirley said in an e-mail. “The Tuscaloosa market hasn’t suffered as much as many other parts of the state, such as the Gulf Coast or even Birmingham.”

In addition, Shirley said the positive trends in statistics show that the Tuscaloosa housing market is slowly improving.

“I believe we will continue to see a gradual increase in sales, which will aid in repairing our market from the recent economy changes,” Shirley said. “I don’t think it will be an overwhelming increase, but a slow, gradual one, which will help us come back and be stronger than ever.”