FAIRBANKS — The Fairbanks North Star Borough housing market isn’t what it was six years ago, but home sale statistics show it’s remained sturdy in the face of a tepid national economy.
“Our market has not taken that dive that other parts of the country have taken,” said RE/MAX Associate Broker Gene Duval during a real estate overview at the Interior Alaska Building Association’s Home Show on Saturday. “The right houses are increasing in value; they’re not coming down in value.”
Using housing statistics from the Greater Fairbanks Board of Realtors, Duval and Broker Jaquie Rosenthal offered an overview of the Fairbanks and North Pole real estate markets.
The area peaked in 2006 with 1,313 home sales, but has hovered around the 1,000-sale mark in each of the five years since the Great Recession. The average number of days on the market has also climbed by a few weeks since the peak, at roughly 70 days in recent years.
Real estate agents expect more of the same this year, with a sales volume Rosenthal called the “new normal” for the area.
Both Duval and Rosenthal stressed the bulk of the market is for starter and mid-range homes. In 2012, for example, 737 homes sold for $250,000 or less in the borough, while just 19 cost $400,000 or more.
Duval said many buyers have rigid price point where they stop considering homes, usually at increments of $50,000. Pricing a home above those levels can eliminate large swaths of potential buyers.
“It’s a hard pill to swallow for a seller, but you’ve got a much better chance if you’re understanding those breaking points,” Duval said.
Duval and Rosenthal aren’t usually enamored of foreclosed homes. Significant damage in a home — which is fairly common among foreclosures — requires conventional loans and at least 20 percent up front.
“Most foreclosures are trashed,” Duval said. “For buyers, don’t think you’re going to get a great deal on a foreclosure.”
In 2012, 65 percent of homes sold in the borough were in Fairbanks, 31 percent in the North Pole area. That’s shifted this year to 55 percent of listings in Fairbanks, 33 percent in North Pole.
Rosenthal said a clearer picture will be available by mid-summer, but that it appears the North Pole market may be getting saturated with listings. That’s good news for buyers, but will probably mean a longer wait for sellers in that area.
Duval said it’s a recipe for aggressive pricing. Throughout the borough, he said homeowners who are willing to list their homes from the start with competitive prices find that it’s the key to selling quickly.
“It’s not location, location, location, it’s price, price, price … At the right price, there’s a buyer for everything, even junk,” Duval said.
Duval also said it’s a misconception that summer is the best time to sell a house in Fairbanks. Although fewer homes sell during the first quarter of the year, there are also fewer listed. That gives winter sellers less competition for their houses.
There are 434 residential listings this week in the area, according to the Greater Fairbanks Board of Realtors. At the end of last summer, Duval said, there were 870 homes on the market.
“Houses are selling, even though there’s snow on the ground,” he said.
Contact staff writer Jeff Richardson at 459-7518. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMbusiness.