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Home sales in Arkansas rose 6.4 percent in April compared with April 2014, the Arkansas Realtors Association said Tuesday.

Photo by Sources: Cooperative Arkansas Realtors Multiple Services, various boards of Realtors / Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Information about residential units sold in April in selected housing markets in Arkansas.

There were 2,579 homes sold in April in the 43 counties surveyed by the association, an increase of 154 homes over April last year.

"April was another relatively good month, consistent with my expectations for the year," said Michael Pakko, chief economist at the Institute for Economic Advancement at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

He expects home sales to be up between 5 percent and 7 percent this year, Pakko said.

"The strong trend continues," he said.

Nationally, sales of previously owned homes in April were down 3.3 percent and up 6.8 percent for newly built homes, according to the National Association of Realtors and the U.S. Commerce Department.

In Arkansas, the average home price of $169,253 was the highest ever, said Kathy Deck, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

"That coincides with April being the month where employment has never been higher [in Arkansas]," Deck said. "I think what we're seeing with the home market is that it is generally reflecting what is going on in the overall Arkansas economy."

For the third time this year, more homes were sold in Benton County, 460, than any other county in the state, a 19 percent jump.

Home sales were up in Benton and Washington counties by about 20 percent, with 694 total homes sold in the counties.

The improvement was "right where we have been in terms of growth" for Northwest Arkansas, Deck said.

"And it's what you'd expect it to be for a growing economy, one that is creating as many jobs as Northwest Arkansas is," Deck said.

Benton County's average home price for April was $244,722, the association said.

That "strained my credulity," Deck said.

"There has been nothing like that [average price] in the history of average home prices [in the state]," said Deck, who keeps a chart of sales and average prices every month. "What I do suspect is that the Benton County [average sales price] is not the setting of a new level of average home prices, but rather reflects several large sales."

The average price of homes sold in Benton County has been about $198,000 for the 12 months before April.

The median price -- the point at which half the homes had higher prices and half had lower prices -- is not available for each county or the state.

There were 396 homes sold in Pulaski County, the second-highest total in the state.

Loans for home purchases at Bank of Arkansas Mortgage have exceeded refinancings, said Joe Gardner, the bank's central Arkansas branch manager.

"This is the prime buying time" for homes, Gardner said.

Mortgage interest rates for 30-year fixed loans are in the 3.625 percent to 4 percent range, Gardner said.

Mortgage lending has been "very, very busy," said Scott McElmurry, chief executive officer with Bank of Little Rock Mortgage.

"You're likely to see May results better than April," McElmurry said.

In the past several months, home sales have accounted for 70 percent to 75 percent of Bank of Little Rock Mortgage's business, with the remainder being home refinancings, McElmurry said.

Through the first four months of the year, Arkansas home sales and the average home prices are each up about 5 percent.

Business on 06/03/2015

Print Headline: Sales of homes up 6.4% in April

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