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Published: Sunday, 11/13/2005

Sales pace slows in area as stock of houses increases

BY MARY-BETH McLAUGHLIN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Homes for sale in seven out of nine of metro Toledo's largest communities sat on the market longer this year than last year, as both inventory and buyer skittishness increased.

Ottawa Hills homes for sale, for example, were on the market more than a month longer this year than last year, according to the Toledo Board of Realtors. Homes in Maumee were on the market 20 days longer on average, those in Holland 17 days longer, and those in Oregon 16 days longer.

"That's a hot topic right at the moment with a lot of sellers who can't understand why their home isn't sold or being shown at the very least," said John Mangas, broker/owner of Re/Max Preferred Associates in Toledo.

Mike Lozier admitted he expected his four-bedroom Ottawa Hills home to sell almost immediately, rather than heading into its third month on the market.

"They normally move quickly here. Sometimes they don't even get listed," he said. "We would like to have had it gone yesterday."

Ken Hicks, a broker associate with Re/Max Central Group, said he can't remember a time in his 28 years in the business that as many homes were for sale at the same time as there are now.

Through last Tuesday, 19,180 homes in Lucas County and surrounding areas have been listed for sale this year, up 11 percent from 17,251 for the same period last year, according to the Realtor board's Northwest Ohio Real Estate Information Systems Inc.

"There're always new listings, but the ones going on the market today are competing with homes that have been on the market for three or six months," Mr. Hicks said.

Further, he said, his clients are not receiving as many purchase offers as they have in the past.

Although the area's economy has been sluggish for a few years, several economic factors this year have hurt housing, such as gasoline near $3 in the summer, record natural-gas prices, and struggles in the auto industry, local real-estate agents said.

The sizable inventory has somewhat dampened selling prices in many areas, Realtor figures show. For example, the average sale of a local home this year was $130,500, compared with $132,600 last year.

Ninety homes were sold in Ottawa Hills through Nov. 8, compared with 77 for the same period last year. Those houses were for sale an average of 183 days this year versus 137 days last year, and the average selling price was $317,100 this year and $309,600 last year.

In Oregon, the list price this year was $161,000 but selling price was $134,000; and in Maumee, the list price was $228,000 but selling price was $200,000.

Still, the metro area has had 500 more sales this year compared with last, indicating the market is not stagnant.

"I remind our sales people that it feels like we're in a bad market, but we're not," said Mr. Mangas, of Re/Max Preferred. Similar situations exist in Cleveland and Columbus, he said.

Sales of existing homes in the Detroit area fell 7 percent in October and houses stayed on the market for an average of 101 days compared with 57 days a year earlier, a study there found.

Toledo-area real estate agents said the number of houses for sale has increased because people want to move to bigger, nicer houses and take advantage of relatively low mortgage rates, but others are holding off on buying because of worries about jobs or general economic conditions.

Owners having the most difficulty selling are those with houses priced at $200,000 and up, agents said, because corporate transfers have slowed, reducing the number of possible buyers, and because home construction is strong and some would prefer to buy a new house for that price.

"I am seeing affordable housing still being popular," said Rod Culler, an agent with Welles-Bowen Realtors. Affordable housing is often considered anything $150,000 and less.

The loss of white-collar positions in the last several years has restricted the pool of possible buyers of expensive houses, which hinders sales in Ottawa Hills, particularly if many of those still house hunting prefer to buy a new home.

Still, the demand for homes differs among communities, said Mark Kruse, an agent in the Westgate office of Danberry Co. Realtors.

For example, growing communities such as Perrysburg and Perrysburg Township have had a 5 percent jump in sales price from last year, and the average days a house is up for sale has climbed just 10 days from last year, Realtor figures show.

In some places, such as the suburbs Waterville and Whitehouse, houses are selling more rapidly than last year. In Whitehouse, the average transaction price this year was $206,000 and the average listing price was $197,000.

But the hefty supply of houses for sale is good news for buyers, possibly translating into lower prices and quicker deals, agents said.

"Buyers are negotiating easier than they were before and they're getting better values," said Mr. Culler of Welles-Bowen.

Contact Mary-Beth McLaughlin at: mmclaughlin@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.



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