Home sales drop by 14 percent

Year-end numbers released Monday showed that sales of single-family homes fell 14 percent in Central Kentucky in 2008, but they also showed that home values remained close to what they had been in 2007.

The numbers revealed another bright spot.

Sales of existing homes rose unexpectedly between November and December nationally, and there was even stronger growth in Central Kentucky, said Heather Hartley of the Lexington-Bluegrass Association of Realtors.

The National Association of Realtors said Monday that sales of existing homes rose 6.5 percent from November to December.

In Central Kentucky, sales rose 15 percent to 531, said Hartley, LBAR's communications director.

"I think the interest rates have a big bearing on that," LBAR president Gale Fulton said.

For the full year, though, numbers worsened across many categories.

Single-family homes, a category that excludes townhouses and condos, took an average of 89 days to sell in 2008, up from 85 in 2007 and 65 in 2004.

The dollar volume of residential single-family sales declined from $1.57 billion in 2007 to $1.31 billion in 2008.

But things could be worse. The inventory of homes for sale in Central Kentucky declined in December compared with a year earlier, showing that "the homes are selling and that we are seeing some of that inventory being taken up," Fulton said.

And Central Kentucky's homes have been retained their value better than in other areas nationally.

A single-family home's median sales price — the point at which half of all sales are higher and half are lower — fell just 2 percent to $143,000 in 2008 in Central Kentucky. Nationally, median sales prices fell 15 percent, according to NAR.

And Central Kentucky even saw an uptick in December, as median sale prices rose 0.6 percent year-over-year, according to LBAR.

"Because the Bluegrass did not experience drastic home price growth in the last five or so years like in California and the coastal regions, we're not seeing those drops in prices," Fulton said.

There was some variance by county. Franklin, Madison and Jessamine counties saw dips of as much as 4 percent in median sales prices.

In Madison, the median sales price fell from $152,500 to $148,400, Hartley said.

Gary Abney of Prudential Don Foster Realtors in Madison County said his area might be hurting because of a decline in Fayette County workers moving in as a result of last year's run-up in gas prices. Previously, people moved to Madison County, he said, because home prices were lower and the commute wasn't costly.

"But then when the gas prices jumped up, that all stopped," he said.