Local Realtors started 2017 with inventory at its lowest level in more than three years, as interest in the market remained strong through the winter months.

January 2017 sales graphic, According to the High Country Multiple Listing Service (MLS), Realtors sold 101 homes worth $27.62 million in January. The median sold price – the midpoint at which half of all homes sold above or below – was $225,000, the highest one-month mark since last October.

It extended to 22 the number of consecutive months in which sales have surpassed 100 listings. That’s the longest such streak since the 2008 collapse in the national housing market.

The first month of the year has generally been, with regard to sales, one of the slowest. From 2008 to 2015, an average of only 68 listings sold that month. That average was almost doubled at the start of last year, when 114 homes were sold in January 2016. That kick started the busiest year in local real estate in at least a decade.

That business is reflected in inventory levels. As of February 12, there were 1,886 homes listed for sale within the High Country MLS, which records Realtor activity in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties.

That is the lowest such mark since at least January 2014, when 2,328 homes were listed. Inventory had remained above 2,100 until the start of 2017, when it dropped below 1,900.

The business has long been driven in part by buyers’ market conditions. As sales have grown, median sales prices have remained well below pre-2008 levels. For example, last year’s brisk market recorded a median sold price of $204,000. That was 9.3 percent less than 2008 ($225,000) and 11 percent less than 2007 ($230,000).

Another buyer motivator has been interest rates. They spiked in the first few weeks following the November elections, but have since declined slightly. They remain well above 2016 rates.

As of February 16, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 4.15 percent, according to loan giant Freddie Mac. The rate was 4.32 percent the final week of 2016.

The most recent average 15-year fixed rate was 3.35 percent, down from 3.55 percent six weeks ago.

Meanwhile, mortgage applications increased recently, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. Total loan applications increased 2.3 percent from the previous week. The refinance index and purchase index both grew 2 percent.

High Country Realtor Report January 2017