Realtors open houses as Chattanooga home prices rise

Realtors open houses as Chattanooga home prices rise

May 15th, 2014 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

Photo by Laura McNutt/Times Free Press.

Nathan Torgerson rushed through six home closings during the final week in April to close out the busiest sales month since the 24-year-old Realtor started selling homes three years ago.

"It was an insane week, but I think it just shows how well the market is coming back," Torgerson said Wednesday. "We're getting multiple offers on many properties and more homes are selling closer to their asking price."

The median price of homes sold in Chattanooga during the first quarter of 2014 was up 7.9 percent from a year ago, according to a new report by the National Association of Realtors. Chattanooga home prices rose by more than five times the 1.5 percent general inflation rate in the past year.

But Chattanooga's median home price of $129,400 in the first quarter was still one third less than the U.S. average of $191,000 and remained below most other major MidSouth markets, outside of Memphis.

The typical home in Chattanooga sold for only a fraction of the $808,000 median price this winter in San Jose, Calif., the nation's most expensive real estate market.

"We're seeing good price appreciation as the inventory of homes on the market tightens in relation to the volume of sales we're seeing," said Vicki Trapp, president of the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors. "But Chattanooga is still a very affordable market and people who move here are often pleasantly surprised about how much more home they can buy with their money in Chattanooga than they can in other markets.

"With mortgage rates still at historically low levels and the local economy continuing to get better, we're heading into the busy sales season with as strong of a market as I've seen in years," she added.

To encourage home buyers to get out and see what homes are for sale, the local Realtors association is sponsoring its first local Open House weekend on Saturday and Sunday with more than 200 open houses across Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia. A similar open house weekend a year ago had 120 open houses.

"Open houses are a great chance to get both buyers looking at houses and potential home sellers for the future," said Robert Moss, owner of the Chattanooga Properties Brothers group affiliated with the Keller Williams real estate. "You don't often sell houses on the spot at an open house, but they are a great way to connect with people and build future sales."

A recent survey of home buyers by the National Association of Realtors showed that 45 percent of buyers use open houses as a resource for finding their next home and 90 percent said open houses were useful in the home buying process.

Moss said the local Keller Williams offices had their best sales for April since the company opened an office in Chattanooga in 2005.

Realtors say a lack of new home inventory is the biggest problem for many home buyers looking in many areas of Chattanooga.

Nationwide, home building starts are still well below their pre-recession level.

"We still need more new-home construction to fully alleviate the inventory shortages in much of the country," said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors.

Home prices have been bolstered by the drop in foreclosures and bank repossessions. Such distressed sales tend to depress median home prices and can weaken the overall housing market.

But RealtyTrac, an online service that tracks the foreclosure market, said Wednesday that foreclosure notices and bank repossessions were down in April compared to a year ago by 45.1 percent in Tennessee and 34.5 percent in Georgia.

Open house weekend

The Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors is promoting the busiest period for home sales with a local Open House weekend that will include more than 200 homes. A listing of the open houses for this weekend will appear in the Homes section of the Saturday and Sunday Times Free Press and more information is available at homes.gcar.net

For those who visit one of the open houses and share a photo of their visit on social media, the Chattanooga moving company Good Guys Moving will pick a winner from such entries for a free move, up to $500.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfree press.com or at 757-6340.