The last half of March was upended for real estate agents because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but overall home sales for the month still surged.

According to the latest figures, real estate agents in Benton and Washington counties combined to sell 938 homes in March, with a sales volume of $259.5 million. That’s up 15% from 816 home sales ($196.2 million) in the same month of 2019.

The data is from the Matrix software platform used by the Northwest Arkansas Board of Realtors (NABOR).

Benton County reported 617 home sales worth a combined $172.2 million in March. That compares with 517 and $128.6 million in the year-ago month. In Washington County, agents sold 321 homes in March — up from 299 last year — with a cumulative value of $77.2 million, up from $67.6 million.

Stuart Collier, principal broker of Collier & Associates of Fayetteville, said he expects to see a slight to moderate drop in closings the next couple of months compared to 2019. Still, he sees positive indicators.

“Although we expect to see less momentum in closed deals over the next 50 days, we are nonetheless encouraged by the current activity of new listings and new contracts,” he said.

Collier said the real estate brokerage community, title companies and lenders are keeping business moving forward by leveraging technologies such as 3D virtual tours, e-signing, video streaming and the newly permitted e-notary closings.

Year-to-date numbers through the first quarter of 2020 are also up by double digits. Realtors sold 2,405 homes in the two-county area through the first three months, with a combined sales volume of $610.8 million. That compares with 1,995 homes in the first quarter of 2019 (up 20.5%), with a combined sales volume of $463.1 million (31.8%).

The average price of a home continues to rise in the region. In Benton County, the average home sale in the first quarter of 2020 had an average value of $260,992, up 9.1% from $239,045 in the same three-month period of 2019. In Washington County, the average home sale price through March was $242,166, up 9.6% from $220,885 last year.

From a national perspective, a report issued Thursday by the National Association of Realtors said nearly 3 in 4 Realtors currently working with sellers this week – 74% – reported their clients haven’t reduced listing prices to attract buyers. This suggests interested home sellers are remaining calm and avoiding panic selling during the uncertain economic environment brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Nearly 70% of Americans have secure employment and those interested in purchasing homes are looking at the enticing mortgage rates,” NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said in a statement. “One in five potential buyers have dropped out of the market due to job loss concerns, hopes are the massive financial stimulus package can help replace a good portion of lost income until the economy steadily reopens. More home sellers are needed to relieve the acute inventory shortage.”