By Joel Phelps
Since Henderson State University announced the termination of 67 faculty positions, residential areas are dotted with “for sale” signs that have appeared on front lawns throughout Arkadelphia.
Is this foreshadowing of a mass exodus from the town, or just happenstance? The answer varies depending on the realtor.
The university’s announcement was made near the end of the spring semester, a time of an annual shuffle — graduates and educators leave for other opportunities, while a fresh crop of both move in before the start of the fall semester.
Kim Byrd, owner/broker of Crye*Leike Pro Elite Realty, said there has been a slight increase in homes being listed for sale — more than typical for the summer flux — but it is not an indication that more residents are leaving than moving to Arkadelphia. “The houses that are going up for sale now are not necessarily a reflection of [Henderson’s] news,” Byrd said. “I caution people to not look at what is for sale and automatically assume that it’s people from Henderson are leaving, because that’s not the case with a lot of people.”
Professors and coaches from Henderson State and Ouachita Baptist universities, as well as Arkadelphia Public Schools, leave the community at the end of the school year for other colleges or school districts, she said. “There is always those houses that come up for sale from them moving anyway. I don’t think this is going to be a mass exodus.”
Brown Hardman, principal broker of United Country Crystal Lakes, paints a different picture. He said at least half the clients in the housing market right now are in the business of flipping homes — purchasing discounted houses and remodeling them to sell for profit. Interest rates are low now, but that could and probably will turn the other direction, he said. That, combined with Henderson’s cuts, leaves the future uncertain. “When this little bubble bursts, and it will at some point in time, I don’t know what all the consequences will be,” Hardman said. “But I know things are not normal right now.”
Hope Jones, who will join Hardman as partner once she is a licensed realtor, predicts more homes will be up for sale with no potential buyers. “I foresee a lot of homes going up for sale,” Jones said, “and it’s going to leave us having a hard time finding a buyer.” Jones could be correct considering that there are 44 tenured professors who were given the option to remain at Henderson another year to “teach out” the academic programs that were tossed in reimagining the university’s future. Those professors could retire and stay, or they could leave to continue their careers elsewhere.
United Country used a recent client, a professor whose position was terminated, as an example. That professor listed her home for sale, and others may be following suit “out of fear because of financial instability,” Jones said.
Jones predicted the two unknowns — Henderson’s future and higher interest rates — will be the two main factors in the future of Arkadelphia’s housing market.