by Tyler Hale
Arkansas real estate has been heating up over the last several years. According to local Realtors, real estate markets across the state are strong and show no signs of slowing down.
After the 2008 financial collapse, housing markets throughout the nation ground to a halt as potential buyers put their housing plans on hold. Houses sat on the market, while buyers were either unable to or unwilling to invest in real estate.
Now, buyers are flocking to buy houses in Arkansas. Sandra Kelley, a Realtor representing the Paragould area, says real estate in Northeast Arkansas is booming, particularly for first-time homebuyers. “Houses in that first-time house price range are selling like hotcakes,” she says.
Realtors across the state agree with Kelley, saying Arkansas has become a seller’s market. Increasingly, more millennials are entering the real estate market after shying away from it in the wake of the recession. Doyle Yates, a Realtor representing Northwest Arkansas, sees the increased number of millennial buyers as evidence that there’s now more confidence in the real estate market.
“People in the real estate downturn who would have been first-time home buyers who put off that decision because of market conditions now have more confidence in the-real estate market… and they have become that first-time home buyer,” Yates says.
The influx of millennials, along with baby boomers looking to downsize, has created a huge demand for houses in many price ranges, particularly starter homes.
Kelley attributes this to low inventory in certain price ranges and an increased number of buyers. According to Michael Ford, a West Memphis-area Realtor, the lack of inventory is not a local issue, but a statewide issue. “There’s a shortage of inventory all around the state in most markets,” he says.
Following the law of supply and demand, the housing shortage is increasing competition for houses and driving prices up. Yates has watched the upward trend in his region, noting demand is “across the spectrum” of buyers and price ranges. “There’s not enough houses and properties in certain price ranges,” he says. “There’s not enough inventory, so demand increases.”
Much of the housing market’s demand is due to increased job opportunities and amenities in Arkansas, according to realtors. Increased job security and economic opportunities have played a significant role in jumpstarting the real estate market. The fast-growing Jonesboro area, with a major new hospital, factories and other employers, is helping to fuel housing demand in Kelley’s area. Meanwhile, Northwest Arkansas’ major industries, including Walmart and Tyson Foods, are a draw for many job seekers and homebuyers.
Good schools are also increasing demand for houses in Arkansas. From parents seeking the best school districts for their children to older students looking at college, educational institutions have become a draw in Arkansas. Realtor Angie Johnson, representing Saline County, says the “driving force” behind the real estate market in her area has been the “great school districts.” Both Kelley and Yates agree with Johnson’s assessment, saying that schools, including colleges like Arkansas State University and University of Arkansas, are big incentives for homebuyers.
Arkansas has also become known as an ideal vacation and retirement spot. The state’s natural beauty, which includes lakes, state parks and mountains, has enticed people into buying real estate. Ford listed Greers Ferry and Lake Hamilton as hot spots for those wishing to buy vacation or retirement homes. In the Northwest, Beaver Lake has also become an in-demand location for scenic property. “The economy is strong, and people are once again looking for a second home. Arkansas is very attractive, and we have beautiful lakes for people to enjoy,” Ford says.
The quality of life afforded by nearby scenic beauty, coupled with a slower pace of life, is attractive to homebuyers, according to Yates. “Within a few minutes drive, you can be in the country, you can be at the lake,” he says.
And there’s no indication that the real estate demand is going down. Barring significant changes to the economy, many realtors believe the real estate market will continue to grow in Arkansas. “If the economy stays the way it is, we’ll continue to grow,” Kelley says.
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