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Snapshot of Alaska real estate market shows improvement from last year

New real estate numbers show housing sales in Alaska generally improved in the second quarter of this year, with a dip in mortgage interest rates likely a major driver behind homebuying decisions, a state real estate economist said.

In Anchorage, 824 homes sold in the period from April to June, up from 765 during the same three months last year, according to statistics from the Alaska Association of Realtors. The average sale price rose to $379,809 from $366,194 in the second quarter of 2014. The average number of days homes spent on the market remained unchanged at 40.

Anchorage condo sales were flat, with 315 sold in the second quarter both last year and this year.

In the Mat-Su, 537 homes were sold, up about 15 percent from the previous year. The average home price was $250,616, up about 9 percent. Homes spent less time on the market in the second quarter of 2015, down to 67 days from 82 in 2014.

In Fairbanks, 368 homes were sold, with buyers paying an average price of $216,493, just slightly more than last year. The number of homes sold was up 23 percent.

Although the numbers seem encouraging, state real estate economist Karinne Wiebold said it's still too early to gauge the health of this year's market.

"The changes in sales volume do not look particularly remarkable," said Wiebold, who works for the state Department of Labor. "It will be much more relevant to see what happens with first half and full year data, as that is where a lot of the nuances get smoothed out and we can really see trends."

She noted that interest rates, after hitting historic lows in late 2012 and early 2013, began rising in late 2013 and early 2014. Many people assumed the increase would continue, but instead rates fell again, to below 4 percent, in the first quarter of 2015.

"Low interest rates are a major incentive for purchasing, and when they dip after rising for a while, households who may have been on the fence about purchasing have the extra push to do so," Wiebold said.

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