Gary Franz is the incoming president of the Newton Area Board of Realtors. The Newton Kansan asked him questions about the current real estate market in Newton, the availability of affordable housing and the market in general.
Q: What is your take on the overall health of the real estate market in Newton?
A: According to the snapshot yesterday, we are doing about the same as we did last year or the previous 12 months. This year we have sold 19 more homes than we sold last year. That isn't a lot, but it is a little. It is 255 to 234.
This might be better than it sounds. For the first three months of 2013 we had slow, very slow activity and few sales. In April, May and June it really picked up. … If we have the same activity in the last three months that we have had in the middle of the year, we will have a better year than last year.
Q: What is your impression of the availability of affordable housing?
A: In terms of new houses, the entry level is about $125,000. That is still out there. In terms of preowned homes, affordable housing depends on how you define it. It depends on who you are trying to make it affordable for.
In the county, we have a big inventory of $60,000 to $69,000 — it's eight percent. That is our highest percentage of any $10,000 spread. To me that is the affordable range if you want to buy a house that you can move into without doing a lot of fixing up, it will probably be in the 60s.
We have a number of houses (under $60,000). The other I see is we have 7.5 percent in the $130,000 to $140,00 price range — those who own in the $60,000 would be moving to that. We also have 7 percent in the $110,000 range.
Q: How many homes are on the market right now? Is this a buyer's or seller's market?
A: We always go up in the summer and by December we are at our lows. In previous years our peaks are 166 (homes on the market). This year our peak was 130. To me for a robust market in Newton, we need 150 to 160 homes in inventory. In this sense, it is more of a seller's market although the sellers were doing much better when we had more inventory.
Q: What is missing in the market?
A: We have what we need. The thing that is causing some concern is in Newton, we still have buyers who think it is a buyers maker and sellers who think it is a sellers market. There is still a lot of negation and contention — buyers offering less than the seller wants, and that slows the process.