Flint Hills Technical College hosted the Wichita State University Center for Economic Development and Business Research and local business and government leaders on Friday for the Emporia Economic Outlook conference.
Various speakers covered topics such as the state’s economic index and the state’s economic outlook, but the conference also focused its attention on local issues.
One such topic was the housing situation in Lyon County, which was addressed by a panel comprised of Jamie Sauder of Coldwell Banker, Jeff Williams of EK Real Estate and Brian DeWitt of ESB Financial.
The panel discussed the recent increase in house prices and declining housing stocks. Sauder said that while previously price increases were around 5% per year, these have recently been closer to 11-12%, “which is probably not sustainable.”
âWe are seeing houses in some areas of the city that are selling for prices that I cannot understand,â he said.
But that hasn’t stopped people from taking homes when they are available.
Williams said he had worked with buyers who sold homes last year, but couldn’t find anything better this year. In fact, now they wish they hadn’t let go of the opportunities they had in 2020.
“It won’t be better next year, that’s the sad truth of it all,” he said.
Sauder added that the housing market is such that the slightest hesitation in pulling the trigger on a home purchase can lead to a missed opportunity.
âOne of the things we need to prepare buyers for, we need to let them know you’re going to have a chance to review it,â Sauder said. “If you think you’re going to go home and sleep on it, you’re not going to sleep in it.” You can take our word for it or not, but if you don’t bid and bid now, offer full price and get seller friendly, you won’t get it. It’s the sad truth.
Williams added that this caused some homebuyers to rush the process, fearing that if they did all the inspections, for example, their offer could be rejected.
“Even if they can get the house, when the reality then comes along that the electricity is bad or the roof is bad or that sort of thing, it’s not good customer service and it’s not good. for them, âhe said. “That’s the thing we’re dealing with right now.”
Sauder said the focus should be on renovating homes already built and filling in vacant lots rather than just developing a bunch of new neighborhoods to avoid expanding beyond what the city’s dwindling population. can live. To do so, he said rising material costs will force the city to invest in these renovation and backfill projects.
âI think the city is going to have to start investing real money in the construction process and the development process in different ways,â he said.
He cited the city’s rural housing incentive district projects as examples of how it has done and can continue to do so.
Williams and Sauder agreed that in order to create more opportunities for affordable housing, there needs to be more competition in the real estate development market, which will drive prices down.
Bekah Selby, assistant professor of mathematics and economics at Emporia State University, discussed local trends in Lyon County.
She reported that the construction and manufacturing fields increased significantly in 2020 while the leisure and hospitality fields declined. She also said that Lyon County had not experienced such a severe unemployment crisis during the pandemic, as key areas of employment in the region were less affected.
As retail sales plummeted during the pandemic, she said they not only returned to where they were before, but even significantly exceeded them.
âWe’re kind of catching up – that’s what I guess – for missed opportunities to buy things,â she said.
She also compared the census figures for Lyon County in 2020 to what they were in 2010. She said the county’s population of 32,179 in 2020 was a drop of 4.5% from 2010 and that surrounding counties have experienced similar or even greater population declines.
If the county continues this trend, its population will grow to 21,637 by 2070, with the prime working age population (20-64) shrinking as more people move out of rural areas to migrate to jobs. in urban areas, she said.
Selby encouraged those in attendance to think about what they can do within their sphere of influence to stop this trend.
“You are the business leaders and the heads of government and all the key leaders in our community, and you are the ones who will have the greatest impact on the future of Emporia,” she said.