NWI home sales in holding pattern
Home sales in Northwest Indiana slumped in September for the third month in a row. Job insecurity and a high inventory of foreclosures continue to depress sales nationwide.
Sales of existing single-family homes in the five counties covered by the Greater Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors were down 19.8 percent in September from one year ago and up just 0.9 percent from last month, according to association data.
People worried about holding onto their jobs remains a key factor in holding back home sales, even as interest rates remain at historic lows, according to Dianne Kwiatkowski, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Valparaiso.
“The average person who sees a co-worker laid off or has their own hours cut, those people are petrified and will not make a move,” she said.
Kwiatkowski and other local Realtors see some hope for housing, particularly in markets such as Porter County, where values escalated more slowly than in other parts of the nation and new residents from other areas continue to house hunt.
Also, Realtors there are beginning to see homes sales pick up in the $300,000 range, which had been moribund for much of the past two years.
Nationally, single-family home sales fell 19.5 percent in September from one year ago but were up 10 percent from August, according to the National Association of Realtors.
“A housing recovery is taking place but will be choppy at times depending on the duration and impact of a foreclosure moratorium,” said National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.
“But the overall direction should be a gradual rising trend in home sales with buyers responding to historically low mortgage interest rates and very favorable affordability conditions.”
Yun and others are concerned that some banks placing a moratorium on foreclosures in order to sort out faulty paperwork could keep many of those homes on the market for months to come. Getting foreclosures sold and off the market is seen as a key to lifting home prices.
Despite the three-month slump in home sales in Northwest Indiana, prices have largely held their ground.
The median selling price of homes in September was down just 0.8 percent compared to one year ago and decreased 3.9 percent from August, according to data from the Greater Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors.
The Greater Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors represents Realtors in Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Jasper and Newton counties.
According to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey, the average interest rate on a 30-year mortgage was 4.21 percent last week, compared to 5 percent one year ago. Last week’s rate was one of the lowest in more than 50 years.
NWI homes sales in doldrums
Lake County existing single-family homes sold
September 2010: 323
September 2009: 392
Porter County existing single-family homes sold
September 2010: 109
September 2009: 150
Source: Greater Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors