Some realtors in our area say the real estate market in St. Joseph County is showing improvement. So far this year, nearly 25 percent more homes have sold than during the first 5 months of last year. And the numbers are similar in southwest Michigan as well. Our Fact Finder team did some looking into the numbers to see how existing homes sales and new construction homes sales look compared to last year.
EXISTING HOME SALES
Becky Palmer bought her Granger house nearly a decade ago.
"This is what sold us on it," says Palmer as she shows off her large island in the kitchen.
Palmer loves every inch of her house inside and out. For the past 9 years the walls and rooms have been more than just part of a home. They have been a place to make memories.
"It is a good place. It has got a lot of special memories," says Palmer, "It is going to be hard to leave it."
As much as she loves her house, it went up for sale this weekend.
"This is such a wonderful house for a family with kids, cause we have got so much space, it will be nice to turn it over to a family who can really enjoy it, and utilize it and grow in it," says Palmer.
The chances of that happening are pretty good. According to data compiled by Re/Max of Indiana, the St. Joseph County housing market recorded strong growth in the first 5 months of 2012.
Nearly 25 percent more homes sold from January to May of this year compared to the same time last year.
"I am very optimistic," says Re/Max 100 Realtor Diane Bennett. Bennett says it has been the perfect storm of low interest rates and an early spring. But Bennett has also noticed a change in her clients as well.
"(They say) we are not going to worry about a struggling economy. We are just going to move on and we are going to buy houses and sell houses and we are going to buy cars and we are going to go out to eat and we are going to get back to life like Americans like to live," says Bennett.
This attitude could mean good things for Palmer. "I think it is a good time to be a seller and a buyer," she says.
Here is how the numbers look for our area:
Home Sales January through May
St. Joseph County Elkhart County SM Michigan
2008 1,345 56 944
2009 1,004 52 805
2010 1,080 44 915
2011 860 51 825
2012 1,071 56 1,080
According to Re/Max of Indiana, in St. Joseph County from January through May, 25 percent more homes were sold this year so far than last year. In Southwest Michigan the number of homes sold is up 31 percent according to the Southwest Michigan Association of REALTORS. In Elkhart, the numbers have remained steady.
Not only have homes in the area been selling, but they have been selling faster too. In all these markets though, the number of days the homes sat on the market is down around 15 percent.
In LaPorte County the news isn't as great. Fewer homes sold and they spent a longer time on the market. But, the average price of a home in LaPorte County went up about 42 percent from $70,565 in 2011 to $100,740 in 2012.
While the numbers are not as significant for new home construction, builders say a growing existing home real estate market can be good for them too.
Adam DeVon, from DeVon Custom Homes, says the company has seen some growth this year.
During the good years they were building 12 to 15 homes a year. But in 2007 and 2008 the market tanked. They were lucky to build 2 to 3 homes a year. This year though the company has already finished one home, is in the middle of building 3 others, and is looking at the prospect of building a couple more this year. DeVon says it is still early in the season too -- so the possibility of building more homes this year is possible. He hopes in the next few years the market will really start to take off again.
"I don't think it will be a huge increase right away like it was a couple years ago. I think it will be steady. A steady increase in traffic," says DeVon, "no one can predict the future. We'll just be thankful for what we have now and be blessed with what we have."
Here is what the numbers of residential, home construction permits, look like in the area:
Residential Building Permit Numbers
St. Joseph County Elkhart County
2008 282 337
2009 197 135
2010 146 220
2011 128 147
2012 (so far) 58 87
In St. Joseph County, according to the Homebuilders Association of St. Joseph Valley, the number of new home permits have continued to go down since 2008. But in the first 5 months of this 58 new home permits were pulled.
In Elkhart County the numbers are a little better. So far, in the first 5 months of 2012, 87 new home permits have been pulled. If that continues we could be on track to beat the number of new homes build in 2011. Those numbers are according to Elkhart County, the city of Elkhart and the city of Goshen's building departments.
DeVon says if the real estate market for existing homes is showing improvement, the market for new construction homes is bound to show growth as well.
ARE YOU LOOKING TO SELL?
Re/Max 100 Realtor, Diane Bennett, shared these tips to prepare a home for sale:
1. Take a Fresh Look at Your Home
--First, consider what's called "street appeal;" does it need washing or painting?
--Does the driveway need repair work? Is the landscaping in good shape?
--Is the yard neat and trimmed? What about the view from the front yard?
--Take a tour and imagine what your real estate agent might say about each room, look into cabinets, open doors, check out the bathroom.
2. Clean Out the Clutter Before You Start to Sell (Potential buyers are put off by clutter)
--Get rid of clutter in every area -- closets, attic storage, kitchen cabinets, drawers, bath vanities, and shelves -- everywhere.
--Don't forget the furniture and fixtures when getting rid of clutter -- most of us put too much in too little space, which makes a buyer, think your home is too small.
3. To Sell, Sell, Sell -- Clean, Clean, Clean
--Have the carpets professionally cleaned, strip and polish the floors, scour the bathrooms, go over the laundry room, polish the furniture, scour out the cabinets, wash the windows and window coverings, and spiff up the ceiling fans and kitchen appliances. In short, clean everything.
--Don't forget the exterior; paint or power-wash everything that needs the work.
4. Get More for Your Home: Repairs Pay Off
--Patch up the roof, touch up all the paint, repair the screens, spruce up the porch framing, and make your entry area really shine.
--Don't forget to water the lawn and landscape beds, and take the time to trim, mow, edge and get rid of sick or dying plants.
--Inside, fix the grout in the bathrooms and on tile floors, adjust any doors that need it, fix any scratches on the walls, cover any stains, and be sure to fix any plumbing problems.
(There is, however, an alternative to the sweat equity you get from a total fix-up --but it carries a price. An "as-is" sale keeps you from doing all this work, but a buyer will assess about twice the price you would have paid for the repairs. Then, the buyer will deduct that amount from your asking price before making an offer.)
5. Putting Your Home on the Market: Show It to Sell It
--Even if it's bright daylight, open the blinds and turn on the lights.
--Open all the interior doors to make the home appear roomier.
--Be sure to remove all your kids and pets.