It appears the lack of inventory, rising prices and rising mortgage rates may have finally caught up with the Lincoln real estate market.
According to data from the Realtors Association of Lincoln, sales of existing homes fell in the first quarter compared with the same period a year ago.
There were 778 closed sales of existing homes in the first three months through the local Multiple Listing Service, which was about a 6 percent decrease from the 829 sales in the first quarter of 2017. It also was the lowest total for the first quarter since 2015.
Sales of new homes were up slightly, with the 137 in the first quarter representing a 4 percent increase over the 132 sales in the first quarter of 2017.
Kyle Fischer, executive vice president of the Realtors Association of Lincoln, said the drop in sales is not due to a decrease in the number of buyers.
"While sales numbers are down, it’s more of a reflection of the low inventory and slightly higher costs than a drop in demand," Fischer said.
While the number of homes on the market has risen, it remains very low by historical standards. According to the Realtors Association, there were about 740 homes listed for sale in the Lincoln area as of April 15, which is about 13 percent higher than at the same time last year and the highest total for this time of year since 2014.
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Still, at the current sales rate, it's less than three months' worth of inventory. A balanced market typically has anywhere from four to six months' worth of inventory available.
The low inventory and continued strong demand is leading to continued increases in home prices.
According to the Realtors Association, the median price paid for existing homes in the first quarter was $170,250, a nearly 15 percent increase over the median price in the first quarter of 2017.
And for the first time ever, the median price of a new home in Lincoln topped $300,000, coming in at $303,500, a more than 8 percent increase over a year ago.
The expense of homes is being further increased by a rise in interest rates. The average rate nationally on a 30-year mortgage as of Thursday was 4.55 percent, a half a percentage point higher than a year ago, and the highest level in four years.
Fischer said National Association of Realtors data shows home affordability dropped 5 percent from March 2017 to March 2018.
"Home affordability is going to be a big challenge in the coming years," he said.