Home sales in Jefferson County have not kept pace with the steady rise in statewide sales reported by the Arkansas Realtors Association on Wednesday.

Home sales in Jefferson County have not kept pace with the steady rise in statewide sales reported by the Arkansas Realtors Association on Wednesday.

The ARA said that home sales in the state rose for the fifth straight month in November, up 8.92 percent compared to the same month in 2010.

In Jefferson County, 22 homes were sold in November, compared to 19 in November 2010, a 15.79 percent increase, according to the ARA report.

For the year to date, 343 homes have been sold in Jefferson County, compared to 359 through November of 2010, a 4.46 percent decrease according to the ARA.

Martha Womack, president of the Pine Bluff Board of Realtors and an agent with Lunsford and Associates in White Hall, said that she has seen some signs of improvement in the local housing market but nothing like the activity of several years ago.

“We’ve just been slow for so long, but our phones are ringing now,” Womack said. “Interest rates are just so incredibly low that that it kind of surprises you how few homes are being sold. The multiple listing service that we use shows that 20 houses have closed in the last 30 days in the area but two years ago we were closing on 40 per month.”

“With the low interest rates you can get so much more house now than you could before,” Womack said. “In the last week people have been calling and wanting to go look at houses and that is encouraging for us. I put together a couple of deals at the end of the past week that will close in early 2012 so hopefully this is a good sign for 2012.”

Alice Curtis, a real estate agent with Buckner Realty Co. Inc., said that Pine Bluff is in need of more business to improve the residential housing market.

“Everybody is just unsure of the economy in town and the rest of the country,” Curtis said. “It appears that the market in Pine Bluff is stable at best. This is a market that needs some new buyers and new jobs to bring some more people to town.

Joel Cheatham, Simmons First National Bank senior vice president for real estate, said that even the presence of record low home mortgage interest rates has so far failed to ignite growth in the local housing market.

“I have been at this for 30 some years and I have never seen it that low,” Cheatham said in reference to the 3.75 percent interest rate for a 30 year home loan. “Our refinance applications outnumber home purchase applications by two to one. Now is an outstanding time to buy a house and it’s a shame that we aren’t seeing more activity.”

“Applications are down overall right now which is usually the case for this time of year,” Cheatham said. “There is just an uncertainty in the economy that has held people back from not only buying a home but also buying other consumer items.”