Housing sales increase in Ashe, prices decline

Wil Petty Staff Writer

September 23, 2013

The number of houses sold in Ashe County is on the rise, but prices of homes in the area have decreased from last year.

“This year is slightly up for sales in Ashe County,” said Joe Chamberlain, broker and owner of Ashe County-based Mountainscape Realty.

Most of the houses that are being sold are second homes, while permanent home sales remain difficult. Realtors attribute that to jobs.

“For first-time buyers (that are buying), the market is very limited because there are no jobs here to speak of,” Irene Sabol, owner and broker-in-charge of High Country Realty said.

The number of homes sold in the county through the end of July is 151, compared to 145 during the same period in 2012.

Chamberlain believes another reason for sales not being higher was because of the weather earlier in the summer.

“Normally those weekends where people are coming up to see the county, they were just staying home because of the weather,” he said.

The value of houses are also going down in the Ashe County market, despite increases in the larger cities. According to Sabol, the average price of a sold house last year was $200,600 while this year it has averaged out at $166,300.

“Owners are dropping prices,” Sabol said. “There are now higher buyer demands, but they want to pay less.”

Foreclosed properties have gone down in the county, but still remain well above the traditional average. While the number of foreclosed homes in the county on the market has been as high as 20, the number of currently foreclosed homes remains high.

“Prior to 2007 and 2008, even closer to 2009, foreclosures were something most of us in the market we had not heard of being around,” Chamberlain said.

Sabol said she has noticed a decrease in the number of foreclosed homes as well.

“We are not seeing as many as we did right after the crash,” she said. “There were tons and tons of foreclosures.”

Land in the county has also started to bounce back in value, despite continued difficulty by banks to loan money for it.

Chamberlain said land had taken the largest hit in the crash, but also had the highest recovery.

“Part of the reason that land right now is difficult to sale, is because the difference between a new home and a used home has always been that it costs a little bit more to build a home,” he said. “Now, because of the depressed market, the prices of the existing homes have come way down compared to what it costs to build.”

While sales are increasing and the housing market is stabilizing, the numbers are nowhere near what they were before the market crashed in 2008.

“Everything is still significantly lower than what we were at the height of the market in 2007,” Chamberlain said. “Even though we’re on the climb back, we are not where we were.”

The market crash hit Ashe County hard, with national sellers such as Re/Max and Coldwell Banker closing their county offices and pulling out of the market. Also, a high number of people were relocating from Florida, where the market crashed the hardest.

Chamberlain said almost half of his second home sales in the years leading up to the crash came from people looking to relocate from Florida.

Sabol said that most of the second home sales in Ashe are now coming from the major cities in North Carolina.

The housing market is also experiencing interest rate increases on houses, now that the economy is starting to improve. The federal government had been keeping the rates lower throughout the recession.

“If the economy continues to get better, the government will take their foot off the pedal and the rates will continue to go up,” Chamberlain said. “They are trying to ease us out of the recession.”