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Business/Economy

In Anchorage, fewer single-family homes are for sale and prices are flat

The average price of a single-family home in Anchorage has barely budged from last year despite a large drop in inventory.

That is mixed news for buyers. On the one hand, there's less to choose from. On the other, market prices on the whole aren't rising — and interest rates are still low.

The average home price of $365,836 for the first six months of 2017 was essentially unchanged from the same period last year, according to the most recent report from Alaska Multiple Listing Service. The number of homes for sale in June was 865, down 16 percent from June 2016.

The total number of homes listed this year through June was 2,708, a drop of 12 percent from the first six months of 2016.

The inventory shrinkage represents a return to normal, according to housing market data. The departure of Royal Dutch Shell bumped the number of properties on the market last year above the five-year average. The market has since absorbed those homes.

"Last year we were still working with a number of people being moved out of state after Shell left Alaska," said Bethany Stamper, a real estate agent at Coldwell Banker Best Properties. "Now we're back to our more normal market."

There also has been a reluctance by potential sellers to list their properties during the state's recession. Wrangling by state lawmakers over the budget also has created market uncertainty, according to Michael Droege, general manager of Century 21 Realty Solutions.

"Sellers have reason to be pessimistic because of what the state's doing," Droege said. "But if a home is priced correctly and in the right condition and properly exposed to the market, it will sell."

Selling a home will likely take longer this year. The homes sold through June in 2017 spent 53 days on the market. That's up from 48 days for the first half of 2016.

Sellers are sprucing up their homes to compete, but generally aren't offering the enormous concessions on repairs, closing costs or list prices that are common in significant housing market downturns.

"I do see a stronger emphasis in how you prep your house for market and making sure you use those features to your competitive advantage," said Janelle Pfleiger, a broker at Re/Max Dynamic Properties. "If you really are going to get in the market, you need to do that. There should be no deferred maintenance. Keeping the property up to date, staging and photographing are critical."

How the average home performs after listing varies by price point. Homes priced above $500,000 tend to sit on the market significantly longer than less expensive properties. But other factors, like location, layout and how well a home has been maintained also determine how quickly a property sells.

Given the size of the municipality, the overall numbers don't always apply to specific neighborhoods.

In Eagle River, homes sold for an average price of $374,100 this year, up 2 percent from the first half of 2016. They're also selling more quickly than last year. But the number of sales is down by 6 percent and the total value of those sales is down by 4 percent.

In Spenard, homes sold this year for an average of $324,262, up slightly from last year. The number sold is up by 16 percent to 83 in the neighborhood, but sales are taking longer to complete.

The advent of the recession had many nervous that the real estate market would take a nosedive as it did 30 years ago during the most severe recession in Alaska's history. So the stagnation in Anchorage's housing market qualifies as pretty good news to those in the business of transacting homes.

"Our market prices remain fairly stable and the meat of the market is still pretty healthy," Droege said. "There's not a lot going on in the upper end, but regular affordable houses continue to turn."

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