Did you hear the one about the woman selling a $140,000 home in Kenwick who was besieged with home hunters wanting to see her house? The neighborhood is close to downtown and just off Richmond Road. It sold within hours.
Did you hear about the Masterson Station house that got three offers and wound up getting its owners more money than the asking price?
Or about home sellers who are getting offers before their house has shown up on the Multiple Listing Service of real estate for sale?
These Anecdotes are not just being heard in Lexington. In Versailles, Realtor Jeri Hartley said that in a recent four-day period, she put three houses on the market, and they all sold in the first 12 hours.
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“They go extremely quickly,” Hartley said. “There are a lot of buyers from last year, ... waiting to pounce just as soon as one comes on the market.”
In Midway, a picturesque small town with local gift shops and Chef Ouita Michel’s Holly Hill Inn and Midway Bakery, the housing supply is said to be so tight that one house never made it to the market after the owner died because his lawyer snapped it up.
Lexington sales in the neighborhoods of Beaumont and Palomar (both off Harrodsburg Road) and Masterson Station and environs off Leestown Road also are robust, said Ty Brown of Weichert Realtors, president of the Lexington Board of Realtors. The Hamburg area outside New Circle also is popular.
Has an early spring just compelled more local home buyers to start looking — and buying? Brown says it’s not just that. Adding housing stock to Fayette County “is definitely an issue. There’s just not enough homes. It’s not that we have more buyers than normal; there’s just not enough homes to buy.”
In recent years, Lexington government has advocated for controlled growth to preserve its distinctive countryside, but a draft of a housing study sponsored by a coalition of Lexington groups, including Lexington homebuilders the office of Property Valuation Administrator David O’Neill the Fayette Alliance and Lexington city government suggests that both an aging population and competition from other counties needs to be considered as the city debates whether to open more land for home building.
The study says that preservation comes at the cost of driving home buyers into surrounding counties. It showed that Fayette County is firmly at the center of Central Kentucky, but Scott, Jessamine and Madison counties are growing faster than Fayette.
Generally, the growth in the counties surrounding Fayette is linked to less expensive housing and easy commutes, according to the draft study. In 2002, 61.1 percent of Fayette workers lived in the county; by 2014, that was down to 49.1 percent. Despite the growth of nearly 28,000 jobs in Lexington from 2002-2014, the total number of jobs filled by local residents decreased from 100,431 in 2002 to 94,338 in 2014.
Fayette’s portion of building permits in the seven-county area — Fayette, Bourbon, Jessamine, Scott, Woodford, Madison and Clark — also is on a downward pitch: In 2012, it was about 70 percent, but in 2015, it cleared only approximately 50 percent, the study said.
A key indicator about Fayette’s population by 2025 is that it’s going to get a lot older. Fayette will see a net increase of 16,416 residents who are 65 or older. That means an estimated 8,400 single-family owner-occupied units needed for older households, and an estimated 2,220 units of multi-family households needed for seniors, compared with an estimated 3,130 homes needed for homeowners ages 35 to 64, according to the draft study.
“We are not keeping pace with demand,” said O’Neill, the PVA. “All things being equal, people prefer to live closer to where they work and reduce their commuting times. ... Our situation with the urban service boundary does affect supply and demand. If our supply is not keeping pace with demand, people are going to have to live somewhere else.”
Susan Speckert, executive director of the Fayette Alliance, said Lexington’s low housing inventory is not unique. The alliance supports sustainable growth in Lexington through land-use advocacy.
“Though this is a nationwide phenomenon, there are some who will try to use low inventory as an argument to expand our urban services boundary to build more houses,” Speckert said via email. “This is an illogical argument that ignores the facts. There are over 5,600 acres of vacant land and thousands more acres of underutilized land available for development inside the urban service boundary. Lack of available land is not the cause of the current housing inventory.”
Land has not been added to the Lexington Urban Service Area since 1996. In 2006, the city decided to emphasize infill and redevelopment over expansion. The city is now undertaking its 2018 comprehensive plan update, and discussion about the benefits of more land for homes versus the benefits of land preservation is likely to be vigorous.
The urban service boundary comes with both benefits and restrictions, O’Neill said.
“We have to remember that part of the cost of having an urban service boundary is that we’re impacting supply and demand. We, as a community, can make these decisions, but we have to make these decisions with the facts and a full set of data.”
Hartley, the Woodford County Realtor, said not just any property is going to sell within a few hours.
One of the houses that she sold in the first 12 hours was $129,000 — considered an entry-level price — but “the sellers really took care of the house. That is key. ... It’s not to say, ‘I’m going to put my house on the market and it will sell in a minute.’ When someone comes into your house, the first thing you don’t want to do is have the agent apologizing or explaining.”
Still, she said, “Between Frankfort and Lexington, it’s a hot market.”
At a glance
How much housing does Lexington need?
The Fayette County PVA’s office says that over the next decade, Lexington will need 10,700 new houses and condominiums. It also will need 10,300 new rental units.
Want more information about aging a growing population of older households?
A Harvard study, “Projections and Implications for Housing a Growing Population: Older Households 2015-2035,” discusses the housing that seniors will need, from a national perspective.