TED TALLEY: The "big" boom nears end

Effort to sell house shows change in Bentonville

Posted: November 10, 2017 at 1 a.m.

My north Bentonville home recently came off the market after a months-long listing. There were no takers, not even with a price reduction and a listing price per square foot well in line with the market. Nor were there negotiating opportunities with any low-ball offers. It's a whole new ball game.

For one, the pre-listing prep was different than with home sales years ago. I learned you can't write "family-friendly" neighborhood in marketing copy, lest you discriminate against or offend childless or non-traditional clientele. Heck, makes no difference to me who buys the place. Just bring cash. Or your banker.

For another, you have to "stage" a home now.

My agent is a talented "stager," though frankly most of the efforts were mine, transforming my home, top to bottom, into a Hank's Fine Furniture showroom. I simply mimicked my fellow, younger, Baylor University alums Chip and Joanna Gaines of HGTV's "Fixer Upper" as I dispatched the clutter. Short of covering walls in distressed shiplap and filling nooks with French country bric-a-brac, my first go at this was a good one. I believe Joanna would have approved, offering a raised hand as a Baylor bear claw and a "Sic 'Em Ted" cheer (It's a Waco thing, like calling the Hogs in Fayetteville).

The re-staging spotlighted the expansive living and dining area from the front door extending to the kitchen bar and breakfast room at the rear. The sunroom overlooking the backyard became a music conservatory with a displayed cello from my sons' school days, Mozart sheet music on the piano and 19th century parlor seating. Photos atop the piano of the boys performing at school and smiling backstage with Yo-Yo Ma set the tone: This home is that of a family seriously into arts and letters.

With interior complete and potted palms, flowers and ferns placed outside at the front and garage doors, the property, "Five minutes from the Walmart Home Office and two minutes from I-49," was ready for its close-up Memorial Day weekend. But after two open-houses and two intervening holidays, the listing agreement expired Halloween night. But I'm not spooked. My lovely home will sell. In time.

Upon reflection, my experience is a bellwether for Bentonville residential real estate: The heyday of the 3,000-square-foot Walmart vendor family home, with ubiquitous, bay-windowed home office off the front entry, is nearing an end.

My subjective take-away is bolstered by data on Realtor.com. The median listing price in Bentonville has not changed from July 2016 to July 2017. The number was exactly the same for those two months: $324,000. In the same time frame, however, the listing price per square foot has gone up from $115 to $120, or just over 4 percent. Surely, there are other factors to consider (as real estate professionals would point out). But basic Jethro Bodine "goes-into" ciphering on a Big Chief tablet leads to a conclusion. If a median listing price hasn't changed, but cost per square foot is higher, then Bentonville homes for sale are getting smaller.

Two proposed developments north of downtown Bentonville are part of this downsized-housing trend as are lofts and condos near the courthouse square. Property on John DeShields Boulevard near existing city parks will be of "mixed use," code words for apartments, patio homes and such. Meanwhile a farm with an old red barn facing NW A Street is to be similarly re-purposed as the Red Barn Development. Concern over these projects gave birth to an ad-hoc organization, Citizens for Responsible Development in Bentonville, which alerts citizens to potential problems of dense development, advises of upcoming city zoning board meetings and promotes airing views before city fathers.

An engaged citizenry is admirable and necessary, especially in a pro-growth company town. But within its noble vox populi, the group's Facebook postings have an air of "NIMBY" -- leave my four-bedroom, single-family home backyard alone. So then, where can graduate business school millennials and green-card immigrants serving our burgeoning economy expect to live? Shall Bentonville be apartheid Johannesburg, South Africa, where workers with less desirable demographics were bused into the city each morning to work, then returned to their neighborhoods at night? Will Fayetteville and Centerton be our Sowetos?

Maybe dense development plans, versus traditional subdivision tracts, should be scrutinized and fine-tuned to consider, for example, traffic issues. But the need for in-town, non-traditional housing in Bentonville has been present for some time as newcomers continue pouring in. That Red Barn door was left open long ago.

Commentary on 11/10/2017