• Home sales, prices continue showing progress

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  • The area housing market has posted a modestly good start to the year.
    The price of new homes in Jackson County rose in January, though the price of existing homes – more than 90 percent of the market – dropped back, according to the Kansas City Regional Association of Realtors and Heartland Multiple listing, which released figures this week.
    This might be the time to get in. After years of a large inventory of homes for sale in the metro area, creating a market favorable to buyers, the inventory has been steadily coming down. The supply of new homes on the market is down to 5.7 months, a balanced market, the Realtors say. The supply of existing homes, however, is down to 4.9 months, and that’s edging toward a market actually favoring sellers, according to the group, and that’s something unseen around here for years.
    The Realtors group tracks sales in nine metro counties, and the average sale price of an existing home in January was $134,751, down 1 percent from January 2012. In Jackson County, the average price was $98,219, down 3.7 percent from January 2012.
    The news is more upbeat, at least from the builders’ and sellers’ perspective, for new homes. The metro average price in January was $365,000, a rise of 12.5 percent. Every county except Miami County, Kan., (zero sales for the month) saw rising prices. In Jackson County, the average was $302,869, up 4 percent.
    Overall sales were up, too, with 1,403 existing homes sold last month, compared with 1,315 in January 2013. There were 144 sales of new homes metrowide, compared with 83 a year ago.
    Neither rain nor snow ...
    Indulge me, if you will, with a mild rant, or at least some fretting.
    Years ago I had a boss, the editor of a newsroom of more than 20 people, who came to the determination that getting the right information in the hands of the right people was such a critical function that he himself sorted the large pile of daily mail, usually half a foot high or more.
    Some thought this over the top, but I could see his point.
    Of course, two-thirds of this mail was unrelated to our jobs of covering the local news – a brochure for scenic Branson, an unsolicited op-ed piece of the plight of the spotted owl – so it went straight to the recycling bin. The rest – word of an upcoming event, a letter to the editor – went to the proper channels.
    But the world, as it does, changed. Someone invented email, so now the unsolicited op-eds on spotted owls come into everyone’s in-box, and we swat them away all day like so many buzzing flies. Not sure that’s progress. Still, email has been very, very bad for first-class mail, which once was vitally important for business. The daily newsroom stack of snail mail is maybe an inch or so (and, yes, some of our loyal readers still send their letters to the editor that way).
    Page 2 of 2 - I got to wondering how business would be affected if the U.S. Postal Service goes through with plans to end Saturday mail (except packages). That means five days of delivery and, about one-fifth of the time, four-day delivery.
    Why? All those federal holidays.
    Quick: Can you name the 10 federal holidays?
    OK, here goes: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King’s birthday, George Washington’s birthday (popularly known as Presidents Day and not celebrated on Washington’s actual birthday), Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
    As luck would have it, none of those fall on a Saturday or Sunday in 2013 or 2014, and even when, say, Christmas falls on a Sunday the next day is a declared holiday anyway. That means 10 weeks a year of four-day delivery of mail.
    Will this actually harm businesses, many of which still depend on sending or receiving time-sensitive materials? Who knows? Email is fast and efficient, and it never takes a holiday. But there’s always the law of unintended consequences. Let’s see how much complaining there is, if any, when these changes take effect in August.
    Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s business editor. Reach him at 816-350-6313 or jeff.fox@examiner.net. Follow him on Twitter @FoxEJC. And we still read our snail mail: Jeff Fox, c/o The Examiner, 410 S. Liberty, Independence, Mo., 64050.

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