Archived Story

Rocky year ends for real estate

Published 4:11pm Thursday, December 31, 2009

By JESSICA SIEFF
Edwardsburg Argus

As the sun sets on 2009, some area residents will be celebrating their first new year in a new home. Others will be celebrating their last.
The area’s realtors may just wait, until year-end figures tell them whether or not they have a reason to celebrate at all.
Based on November numbers, home sales were up – a possible result of the Obama administration extending their new home buyer’s tax credit beyond its deadline into April and adding incentives for current homeowners.
“It was a nice jump in the market,” Gary Walter, executive vice president of the Southwest Michigan Association of Realtors, said last week.
“We’re not quite sure how December is all going to shake up,” he added.
The report shows numbers were up 39 percent in units sold, compared to November 2008.
In addition the average sales price rose as well to $165,566, up from $161,683 for the same time last year.
Historically, Walter said unit sales decline in the month of December.
It’s been a rocky year for the industry – though real estate agents have been preaching a different story from what many consumers are seeing and hearing through news reports. That of trying to shatter the perception of a still shaky market. Rather, several area real estate agents have insisted now is a good time for prospective buyers to purchase a new home.
“I believe that the people who are in the market today believe it’s a real good time to buy a home,” Walter said. “We are still in a buyer’s market.”
For sale signs still dot Michiana streets and though the unit sales may have increased in November, the report shows that those units sold are taking longer to get to the point of signing on the dotted line.
Days spent on the market were up 18 percent in November from that of the previous year.
For sellers, the process has gotten a little harder, Walter said, to find a qualified buyer. Something that’s not necessarily a negative.
Where lenders were handing out home loans to those who may not have realistically been able to afford them, now standards are higher and restrictions tighter. It can be lengthy, but Walter hopes better for everyone in the long run.
He’s cautious in his optimism as well.
“The average sale price, while it’s improving,” he said. “It’s still lower than about a year ago.”
And if buyers and sellers alike are waiting for things to even out? Become normal again?
“I’m not sure what normal is,” Walter said.
The November Residential Closed Sales by Area report covers southwest Michigan including the Niles, Bridgman, New Buffalo, Berrien Springs, Dowagiac, Edwardsburg and Cassopolis areas.

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