December home sales and prices were up in Arkansas compared to the previous year, shutting the books on 2016 and continuing to reflect the state's recovery from the housing market collapse of 2006-2007 and the recession.
"About 2013 things started to pick up and it's really just been an upward trend of real, double-digit growth ever since," said Michael Pakko, chief economist and state economic forecaster with the Institute for Economic Advancement (IEA) at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock.
According to the Arkansas Realtors Association report released this week, the number of homes sold in Arkansas was 2,731 in December, an increase of 8.3 percent over December 2015. Total 2016 sales were 34,033, an increase of 8.1 percent over the previous year.
More: See the complete December report.
"This is really the third or fourth year, I guess, of housing market recovery, I guess you'd call it, where after the collapses of 2006 and 2007 and the recession we really went through a period of really slow sales," Pakko said.
In the 43-county area the ARA regularly surveys, the average December home price increased from $155,501 in 2015 to $172,727 in 2016. For the year, the average price jumped from $160,356 to $170,372. Statewide valuations increased by nearly 15 percent over the year.
Pakko noted that the upward trends continue to be seen most readily in the rapidly growing northwest region and the state's other, more highly populated areas.
The most units sold in December were in Benton, Pulaski, Washington, Saline and Sebastion Counties, driving a statewide sales increase from 2,521 in 2015 to 2,731 in 2016. Annual unit sales were highest in the five counties as well, contributing to the statewide unit sales increase from 31,470 to 34,033.
Pakko said areas showing the most growth during boom times were naturally the likeliest candidates for a downtown during the housing market bust. So it stands to reason they would rebound the strongest during the recovery, though no area in Arkansas was hit as hard during the housing bust as places like Florida, Atlanta and California.
"It was really very localized and here in Arkansas and northwest Arkansas that's where it happened the most," Pakko said. "The bigger they are the harder they fall and the bigger they bounce back."
Benton, Cleburne, Izard, Saline and Washington counties showed the highest average prices for the month, while Benton, Cleburne, Pulaski, Saline and Washington counties had the highest average prices for the year.
Pakko said the monthly figures are actually a reflection of contracts and transactions signed in November and that few deals are finalized during December and the holiday season.
"One thing I can say with almost complete certainty is the January numbers will be much weaker," said Pakko, who added that the strongest months are usually June, July and sometimes part of August.