Home sales are bouncing back this year in the Longview area, with nearly 1,300 sales closed through May in the region served by the Longview Area Association of Realtors.

That’s up more than 27 percent from the same period a year ago, according to data from the association.

“We are so, so busy. We hardly have had time to breathe,” said Suzanne Cook, owner of Suzanne Cook & Co. in Longview. “It’s a great problem to have.”

Cook, who has been selling real estate since 1985, said she thinks the mild spring helped to boost sales, adding, “I am hopeful we get some of the overflow from the Dallas economy into the East Texas area.”

The increases in home sales are a sign the broader economy is improving, said Lori Keebaugh, owner of Keebaugh & Co.

“I think a lot of that has to do with the economy; the oil coming back,” said Keebaugh, who has had a broker’s license for 12 years and opened her company a year ago. “I’ve noticed that when the economy appears to be better, people are more confident (about home buying), and I just think that is where we are at.”

And it shows in the numbers.

Realtors sold 1,271 homes from January through May in the 10-county region served by the association, up 27.1 percent from the same period in 2017. They sold 300 homes in March and 307 in April, both the highest tallies seen since in six years, according to data supplied by the association going back to January 2012.

Sales in May fell back from April’s record level, but remained higher year over year, association data showed. Realtors sold 295 homes last month, up about 12.6 percent from 262 homes sold in May 2017.

The average home price also increased about 5.5 percent, to $193,930 from $183,811 in May 2017.

Homes stayed on the market an average of 114 days in May, seven more than a year ago.

Within Longview ZIP codes, Realtors sold 98 homes in May, up about 16.7 percent from 84 sold a year ago. The median home price dropped about 6 percent from $168,500 a year ago to $158,400 this past month.

Homes ranging in price from $100,000 to $199,999 accounted for 58.9 percent of all sales, following by 16.7 percent for homes selling for $200,000 to $299,999.

Meanwhile, fewer homes are being built in the city of Longview as contractors struggle to find available lots.

Contractors took out 50 permits for single-family homes in the city of Longview during the five-month period, down 23 percent from 65 permits issued during the same period in 2017, according to data from the Longview Development Services Department.

Home building declined in Longview even though the city issued the most permits at 18 in March since August 2016.

Ryan Pierce, owner of Longview Alpha Construction Co., said he did not know why permits dropped, adding, “I see it pick up a lot.”

Pierce, who has been building homes since 2001, said last month he is building fewer homes for personal reasons. Efforts to reach other home builders were unsuccessful, with some saying they were too busy to be interviewed.

Their activity was reflected in an increase in the number of building permits issued in May. The city issued 10 permits in May, up 25 percent from eight permits issued a year ago.

Average values also increased about 9.8 percent to $182,779 this May from $166,511 a year ago.

Other market observers have noticed a decline in home construction within the Longview metro area, which consists of Gregg, Upshur and Rusk counties.

Robert Dietz, an economist with the National Association of Home Builders, told the East Texas Builders Association at a dinner gathering this past August that home builders were not keeping up with the demand for single-family homes despite slow population growth. He said home prices were rising as a consequence.

As with all building permit values, the listed value is the construction cost and does not take into account other factors that go into the sale price of a home, including land, the builder’s profit and Realtor’s commission.