Population drop affects local housing market

Jefferson County Judge Dutch King said Friday that the only way that the tide of steadily decreasing population in the county can be turned is with the cooperation of all of those involved.

“It is so important that all of us get on the same page and work together instead of pulling things apart,” King said. “For economic development and growth to occur all county residents must begin to work together. Until we work together we are not going to make any progress.”

Data released by the United States Census Bureau on Thursday put a firm figure on the steady departure of residents from Jefferson County over the past several years.

The Census figures show that the population of Jefferson County as of July 1, 2013 was 73,191; a steep drop from the 2010 figure of 77,321.

“It affects all of us,” King said. “When good things happen we all feel it and when bad things happen we all suffer.”

Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth did not return a phone call seeking comment on the topic.

Housing troubles

The exodus of residents out of the area has made the job of selling real estate all the more difficult, according to Kay Lawrence, CEO of the Pine Bluff Board of Realtors.

“Locally the market has not met our expectations for 2014,” Lawrence said Friday. “The number of sales are down and more importantly the price of homes sold is substantially lower than the same period of time in 2013.

“The loss of citizens has definitely had an adverse impact on the housing market,” Lawrence said. “Economic supply and demand theories apply.”

Lawrence said that when someone tries to sell a home in a depressed housing market, the owner has to make a number of decisions related to how long it may take to sell the home.

“Buyers often purchase these homes for much lower prices than what is normally realistic,” Lawrence said. “This can have a negative impact on the seller’s ability to purchase another home.”

The Arkansas Realtors Association released its February Housing Market Report on Friday and it confirmed a downtrend in the number of homes sold in Jefferson County as well as the price the homes sold for.

The report said that 18 new and existing residential units were sold in Jefferson County in February 2012, while 22 were sold in February 2013.

So far in 2014 a total of 44 new and existing residential units have been sold, down from 46 sold through February in 2013.

The average February price for a new and existing residential unit in Jefferson County was $85,483; a drop of 17 percent from the $103,116 average price in February 2013.

The average 2014 year-to-date price of $77,293 is a drop of almost 30 percent from the $110,235 year-to-date price through February 2013.