Housing sales up, prices down

Published 8:26pm Wednesday, April 25, 2012

ST. JOSEPH —  March came in and went out like a lion with a 38 percent increase in house sales over the month of February, according to the Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors Inc.
“Housing sales last month were also up 17 percent from March 2011. Selling more houses raised the median price from $70,500 to $79,900, a 13-percent increase ,while it lowered the average price from $153,213 last year to $134,007 in March this year,” said Gary Walter, of the association.
“Last year at the end of the first quarter, fewer homes were sold but the average and median selling prices were up over the previous year. This year the opposite has happened,” Walter said. “We sold more houses during the first quarter but the average and median selling prices were down.”
For the first quarter, the number of houses sold and closed increased 20 percent and the year-to-date, total dollar volume was up 9 percent. The year-to-date average selling price is down 10 percent from the previous year at $142,125 and the year-to-date median selling price is down 6 percent at $80,000.
The local market has experienced a steady increase during the first quarter in houses sold since the lowest point in 2009. The average selling price dropped from an end-of- the-quarter high of $157,250 last year to $142,125 this year.

2009: a low point
The end-of-the-quarter lowest point was in 2009 at $109,493 since the local market’s peak year in 2006. The year-to-date median selling price for the last three years has held within the $80,000 to $85,000 range.
In 2009, the year-to-date median selling price was $61,600. The median price is the price at which 50 percent of the homes sold were above that price and 50 percent were below.
In southwestern Michigan, the percentage of bank-owned or foreclosed home transactions dropped to 36 percent compared to 47 percent last year in March.
The percentage has dropped each month this year starting with 46 percent in January to 42 percent in February. In March 2009 the percentage was at 60.
Locally, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate was 4.09 in March compared to 3.96 in February. Last year in March the rate was 5.13.

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional fixed rate mortgage, was 3.95 percent in March, up from a record low 3.89 percent in February; the rate was 4.84 percent in March 2011; recordkeeping began in 1971.
The numbers reported for local sales include residential property in Berrien, and the western half of Van Buren and Cass counties. All three counties are included in numbers and percentages and do not reflect differences in any areas.

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