It's nearly impossible to overstate how much damage the pandemic has done to certain sectors of the economy, particularly retail and food service. But in one corner of the state, another sector of the economy is humming along nicely.
Home sales are up, up, up in Washington and Benton counties. It may sound counter-intuitive during a recession, but apparently people are taking out mortgages in the northwest of our beautiful state:
"Residential home sales in Benton and Washington counties hit a record in the second half of 2020 and sale prices also topped previous highs despite the covid-19 pandemic," the paper said. "There were 5,726 homes sold in the two counties for the period, the largest since the report began in 2005. The number of sales were up nearly 17 percent from the July through December period a year earlier and nearly 35 percent from the last half of 2015."
And why shouldn't more folks be moving to Washington and Benton counties? Especially if the Northwest Arkansas Council is going to keep handing out cash for people to call that region home.
There's a reason more and more people are buying homes in NWA. It's a great place to live -- vibrant arts scene, lots of investments in public areas like trails and parks, plenty of jobs with multiple Fortune 500 companies.
Then there's these organizations with names like Walton and Hunt in their titles that are throwing millions of dollars into all sorts of public works projects.
There's a smart man in business analytics named Mervin Jebaraj. He's director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas. Mr. Jebaraj gets interviewed for almost every big business story in Northwest Arkansas. This newspaper's business reporters and the folks at Talk Business & Politics probably have him on speed dial.
Mr. Jebaraj has a two-part explanation on why these home sale numbers have risen during a pandemic, and part of it is the pandemic. First, people want more space since more are working from home. Second, buyers are finding that mortgage rates are pretty low right now.
You add that up with how great a lifestyle the region can provide, and suddenly the record-breaking sales numbers make more sense.
Congrats to all the new homeowners in NWA. You chose a wonderful place to put down roots.