Tulsa-area real estate market heats up, eases stress on sellers
BY ROBERT EVATT World Staff Writer
Sunday, July 15, 2012
7/15/12 at 3:09 AM
Jeff and Bonnie Hackler had been considering moving from their home near 29th Street and Cincinnati Avenue for a while.
"We were looking for a little more space and a larger lot for our kids," Bonnie said.
For a time, staying put and adding to their home was an option. But as the local home sales began to improve, they decided to seek a new place to live.
"Interest rates being low were a good incentive," she said. "And with conditions in our neighborhood being good, we figured that the home we're in would sell quickly."
Now, the Hacklers are under contract for a new home near 45th Street and Harvard Avenue, as well as a contract to sell their current home.
They're just two of the increasing number of buyers who are waking up the long-sleepy Tulsa-area real estate market. After four years of decreases, home sales have passed 12 straight months of year-over-year sales increases, and 2012 sales through May are 20.5 percent ahead of the first five months of 2011.
Indicators have improved almost across the board. Prices are up significantly to an average of $163,368, the inventory of homes on the market has shrunk to 10.2 months, and contracts to sell continue to remain high month after month.
All the change is starting to bring different conditions and expectations for buyers and sellers, who must now adjust their strategies from the days when relatively few properties were changing hands.
Just don't call it a seller's market - yet.
Rodger Erker, president of the Greater Tulsa Association of Realtors and a broker with McGraw Realtors, said things have become easier for sellers, but they still don't have the advantage overall.
"I think we're in a middle part," he said. "There are some areas that are better for buyers and some that are better for sellers."
Paul Wheeler, president of Accent Realtors, said conditions are still favorable for buyers.
"It's still great for buyers since homes have lost some value and inventories are still high," he said.
Yet buyers can't afford to assume that sellers are still desperate. Axay Parekh, a broker with Keller Williams, said well-positioned homes for sale are now getting multiple offers.
"A buyer will find a house, wait a week to put in an offer, and it's already found a committed buyer," he said. "This has happened to me three times in the last few months."
Local real-estate officials have said that increased numbers of buyers will eventually push prices up, though Wheeler said bargain-hunting is still the prevailing mindset.
"Buyers are moving," he said. "They're making offers and keeping us busy, though they're still expecting a great value."
As a result, sellers still need to do everything they can to make their properties competitive, Erker said.
"Sellers have realized that pricing is paramount, as well as the condition of the property," he said. "That's the two things they have the most control over."
Priced, staged to sell
That's what Chris Clark is keeping in mind as he tries to sell his 1,900-square-foot home near 41st Street and 214th East Avenue in Broken Arrow. He said he made sure to keep his price similar to other home values in the neighborhood and even lowered it from $160,000 to $157,000 recently.
"We just dropped it slightly," he said. "We think it's still competitive for the neighborhood."
Clark said he's been trying to sell the home since April. There haven't been any confirmed buyers yet, though he's had plenty of lookers who have him hopeful.
"We've gotten steady traffic, and most of the feedback we've gotten has been positive," he said. "We're generally in the top two or three choices."
Mark and Lori Mead went through a lot of preparation before they listed their 2,000-square-foot home in Berryhill, including a fresh, neutral paint job, new hardwood flooring, custom drapery and major decluttering.
"It's such a tough market," Lori Mead said. "You have to make sure your home is in tip-top shape. If your closet is crammed to the gills anyway, moving is a great opportunity to clean it out."
The two initially put their home on the market in February, though it took until June to sell before the couple moved to Houston.
"It took longer than we expected it to," Lori Mead said. "Houses in our neighborhood weren't selling in the fall or winter at all. But once school got out, things started moving."
Although overall conditions are shifting, Parekh said homes that have been on the market for a long time might be at a disadvantage, as that can become a stigma that wards away buyers.
And there are some sellers who are overly optimistic.
"There are always people who feel that their houses are worth more than the market says it's worth," Parekh said.
Original Print Headline: Changing market
Robert Evatt 918-581-8447
Real estate agent Axay Parekh (left) shows the outside of a house for sale in Broken Arrow to Jamie Fields on Wednesday. 2012 sales through May are 20.5 percent ahead of the first five months of 2011. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World
Local real estate professionals say things have become easier for sellers. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World