By Sarah-Jean Vallon
Although Main Street in Lexington is peppered with “For Sale” signs, the housing market is gradually recovering, both locally and nationally.
New-home sales jumped 25 percent in October, according to a report released Wednesday by the U.S. Commerce Department. That is the biggest monthly increase in three decades. Existing-home sales fell 3.2 percent from September, according to the National Association of Realtors, but they were up 6 percent over the same month last year.
In Virginia, year-to-year sales continue to increase, according to the Virginia Center for Housing Research at Virginia Tech. Houses are staying on the market for fewer days than they were last year and sale prices are rising as a result of increased demand.
Scott Baker, an associate broker at J.F. Brown Real Estate in Lexington, said that area houses are typically priced from $150,000 to $350,000. Sales made above $350,000 are rare but on the rise.
“Compared to last year, we are selling some homes in the $400,000 range, even up to a million,” said Baker. “There are a handful of [sales] as opposed to a year ago when there were none.”
Baker said buyers who are looking for homes in the higher range are typically people who are moving into the county from elsewhere. These buyers often look to the area as a retirement destination.
Melissa Hennis, another local Realtor, says that college professors and retirees are typical buyers in the higher price range. Hennis, who is president of the Lexington-Buena Vista-Rockbridge Association of Realtors, says that young people have difficulty finding financing to purchase homed at that price.
The local market has not fully bounced back from the housing collapse of 2007. But Baker said the market is experiencing “a steady recovery.”
According to the Virginia Tech survey, in the region that includes Roanoke, Lynchburg and Blacksburg, the median sales price has risen 3.9 percent since the third quarter last year, from $155,000 to $161,000.
Statewide, the median sales price is up 2.4 percent from last year to $254,000. There is a seasonal pattern of sales peaking in the summer months, according to analysts at Virginia Tech. A downturn is generally experienced during the winter months.