Looking to buy a home in Wichita? Expect rising prices, fewer options, forecast says

If you’re looking to buy a home in the Wichita area next year, you’ll probably have to move quickly.

“If you’re not prepared to look at it on the day it comes out on the market . . . you might lose out on it,” said Stan Longhofer, director of the Center for Real Estate at Wichita State University.

According to the Center for Real Estate’s 2019 Kansas Housing Markets Forecast, released Tuesday, buyers looking to purchase a home in the Wichita area will continue to find tight inventories of existing homes for sale, and practically no increase in the pace of new home construction.

Still, overall sales are expected to rise 1.4 percent to 10,640 houses, the forecast said.

Inventories for used houses will be tightest among those priced between $150,000 and $250,000, which Longhofer said is “the meat of the market.”

“That’s really the most popular price range,” he said.

What’s more, overall home prices in the Wichita metro area — Butler, Harvey, Kingman, Sedgwick and Sumner counties — are projected to rise 4.6 percent in 2019. That’s after a 3.8 percent price increase this year, the forecast said.

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Frank Russold gives a tour of his condo at WaterWalk Place, which doubled in size a few years ago when he purchased an adjacent unit. It’s a hip spot with unparalleled views of downtown fireworks. (Matt Riedl/The Wichita Eagle)

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The increase in home prices, the forecast said, will continue to be driven by the inventory of homes for sale, which will be well below a three months supply. Nationally, inventories of homes available for sale is now above four months, the forecast said.

As for construction of new homes, the pace of that work is expected to remain flat: About 1,040 new homes will be built in 2019. The forecast said that will make the sixth consecutive year for new home construction at around the 1,000 mark.

Longhofer said that’s because the price of materials to build houses has been increasing at a faster pace than home prices. And home builders have struggled to find enough workers to build them. That means the workers they do have are earning higher pay.

And with the cost of materials increasing, partly from tariffs and partly from the effects of recent natural disasters such as Hurricane Florence, Longhofer said buyers are going to find that they’re going to get more for their money in the $150,000 to $250,000 range by buying used over new.

“It’s sometimes easier to buy a home that’s two or three years old … and get a little more home for your money,” he said.

Sales of homes priced $500,000 and above, however, are expected to continue to be soft.

“Those homes are still sitting a long time,” Longhofer said. “It’s always been a thinner market . . . and we’re not seeing the kind of price appreciation on the upper end that we are seeing in the middle of the market.”

Jerry Siebenmark: 316-268-6576, @jsiebenmark

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