Paul Sprunk had expected his west Toledo home to be sold by the time he returned from wintering in Florida.
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Paul Sprunk had it all planned out: Put his west Toledo home on the market Dec. 1, head to Florida for the winter as he usually does, and have a Sold sign waiting for him when he returned this month.
After all, his brick ranch with a full basement is in Washington Local school district, and his real estate agent told him it is in "move-in condition."
Things didn't go according to plan. The For Sale sign was still outside his home last week when he returned from his winter getaway.
"I assumed it might be a little tough to sell since it was winter, but I thought there would be a little more action than there was," said Mr. Sprunk, a retiree.
More than half of the metro Toledo houses sold this year had been on the market for at least three months, and most of those - 701 - lingered more than four months, according to the Toledo Board of Realtors.
A report for last month generated by the board showed sluggish sales in several areas. For example, the average time on the market for homes sold in Ottawa Hills was more than five months. In Perrysburg and Perrysburg Township it was more than four months, as it was in parts of Sylvania.
Homes in Bryan in Williams County were on the market an average of more than five months, and those in parts of Defiance in Defiance County took more than six months to sell.
Experts attribute the delays in selling houses to a tough winter, a sluggish economy, and picky buyers.
"All over town, it's slower," said Jim Loss, of Loss Realty Group in Toledo. "Around here, the economy's coming back but it's coming back slower than the national economy."
Adjacent houses await buyers on a block of Elmhurst Road in west Toledo.
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He said that in desirable west Toledo neighborhoods such as Old Orchard and Hampton Park, homes that once sold in a month or less now stay on the market 60 to 90 days.
A seller needs to be patient, he added.
Agreeing somewhat is Dan DiSalle, Jr., vice president of residential sales and the Perrysburg branch manager for DiSalle Real Estate Co. in Maumee.
He recently had three offers on a $280,000 Perrysburg home that had been on the market for just three weeks.
But often, he said, buyers in that price range looking in the suburbs will reject existing homes for new construction.
"What I'm seeing is that homes that haven't been freshened and updated are definitely sitting on the market," Mr. DiSalle said. "And homes like that don't compete very favorably against new construction."
Large-scale builders in the Midwest and South are offering incentives to sell an inventory of houses built without buyers under contract, but that isn't happening locally, said Tim Schlachter, president of the Home Builders Association of Greater Toledo Inc.
The market for higher-end homes, those priced at $350,000 and up, has been "in a pretty good lull for the last 18 months," although it has picked up in the last two months, he said.
Houses priced at $500,000 and up now take four to five months to sell, about double the time last year, said Michael Miller, president of Sulphur Springs Realty in Toledo.
The area's harsh winter and a local unemployment rate that exceeds those for the state and nation, combined with rising interest rates for borrowers, mean the housing market will struggle, he said.
"There are a lot of people looking, but they're a little slower to make the decision to buy."
Many buyers are becoming increasingly tough in their criteria, rejecting homes with outdated plumbing or that "need work," something that homeowner Ken Zraik has heard a number of times since his four-bedroom, two-bathroom Sylvania Township home went up for sale three years ago.
"I knew the house needed some work, but I expected it to sell," he said of the nearly 1,800-square-foot home.
Mr. Zraik said he has started to make upgrades, including new windows.
Chris Hall, vice president of Danberry Co. Realtors and manager of its Oregon office, said sellers should recognize more houses are for sale than were a year ago, which means buyers have more choices and a given house may not sell right away.
The communities on the east side of the Maumee River, he said, have 20 percent more listings so far this year than for the period a year ago.
A seller should be careful when pricing, or would-be buyers will pass up a house, said Jerry Poindexter, a real estate agent with Re/Max Central Group in Sylvania Township.
"Homes that are selling now are getting priced correctly right out of the chute," he said, adding that he's sold 30 houses this year. "And with the market getting more competitive in the spring, that is going to be critical."
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