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Behind the boom.

Growing Businesses, Retirees Help NW Arkansas Real Estate Market Prosper

A COMBINATION OF THRIVing northwest Arkansas businesses and an influx of retirees from the North have led to a real estate boom for Rogers and Benton County.

One real estate agent says the northwest Arkansas market has finally grown to a point of rivaling central Arkansas.

"Having lived in Rogers all my life, Little Rock has always been a world to itself," says Patrick Harris, president of Harris-McHaney Real Estate Co. "What's happening is that we're getting close to being on somewhat of an equal footing with Little Rock. One indication is growth, another is real estate sales."

It's no secret that the explosive growth of companies such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Tyson Foods Inc. and J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. have led to remarkable population and per-capita income increases for Benton and Washington counties. Noting the "tremendous balance" in the market, Harris says retirement communities such as Bella Vista have further enhanced the region's real estate growth.

"The Bella Vista market represents about 25 percent of our overall company market dollar," Harris says.

He and his partner, Jack McHaney, opened the agency in 1976 and had $3 million in sales the following year. Last year, Harris-McHaney had sales of $26.3 million -- a 40 percent increase over 1991 -- with an average property sale price of $90,000, making it one of the largest residential real estate agencies in Arkansas.

Home sales last year totaled $142.4 million in Benton County and $143.6 million in Washington County. Combined, that represents 92 percent of Pulaski County's home sales of $311.6 million.

Wal-Mart is the "engine" that has brought the level of real estate business in Benton County up to the level of Washington County and even Little Rock, Harris says. The U.S. Highway 71 bypass that links Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers and Bentonville has been another significant factor.

"It's probably the single most important thing in developing a regional market," Harris says of the bypass.

When new Wal-Mart executives arrive in Bentonville, he says, they visit all the cities to find a home because they know they can commute.

"Some want closer to the office, some want the university atmosphere," he says, adding that the cities compete for those executives.

Interest Rates a Factor

As one would expect, low interest rates have contributed significantly to the housing market, but Harris says the rates have helped retirees in particular. Until rates decreased, many living in the North were unable to relocate to Arkansas because they couldn't sell their homes.

But now that they can afford to move, the availability of housing is tighter in Rogers. Harris says Rogers is a seller's market because the number of homes for sale is lower than normal for summertime.

"We're still ahead of last year, but the available number of homes is down 30 or 35 percent because we've sold inventory down," Harris says. "Normally 400 homes are on the market at any given time in Rogers and Beaver Lake. Right now we have about 295 homes ... The last two years we had a good selling spree."

Depending on interest rates and the economy, Harris says, real estate growth should continue during the next three or four years.

Continued low unemployment and the ongoing migration of retired people also will contribute to a healthy market for northwest Arkansas, which he says felt the recent recession only indirectly.

"We're somewhat close to the same footing as some companies in Little Rock," Harris says. "Though we're not quite as big in population and overall sales, we've got some companies that are doing as good as down there."
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Title Annotation:retirees and expanding businesses spur growth of Arkansas's real estate market
Author:Hankins, Jeff
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Industry Overview
Date:Jun 28, 1993
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