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Published: Tuesday, 5/16/2006

Sale prices for homes stagnate in region

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Sales prices for houses in the Toledo area had the fourth biggest decline of metropolitan markets in the country for the first three months of this year, but the median price tag shows our hometown is affordable.

The median sales price for a Toledo-area house fell 5.7 percent in the first quarter compared to a year earlier, to $103,500, according to a report issued yesterday by the National Association of Realtors.

It was the fourth-worst decline among 149 markets, and the price was the 146th lowest.

"I think it may be a temporary thing," said Dan DiSalle, Jr., manager of the Perrysburg office of DiSalle Real Estate Co. "I have a feeling next quarter won't look anything like this first one."

The fallen market is out of step with nationwide figures, which show median sales prices rising 10.3 percent to $217,900, the Realtors' group said.

The national study, which excludes condominium sales, shows housing prices cooling, but 60 areas had double-digit increases and 16 had declines. The median price is used, which is the point where half of the homes are sold for more and half sold for less.

It s not that the metro Toledo market was quiet.

The number of sales was up 10 percent, to 1,871, compared to the same quarter a year earlier, the local Realtors group said.

But too many houses are for sale, with 7,589 awaiting buyers last month, up from 6,582 a year ago.

Plus, the average days on the market is longer.

Christopher Hall, a real estate agent with Danberry Realty and a former president of the Toledo Board of Realtors, said the numbers present a mixed picture.

Having so many houses for sale is good, but brings prices down, he said.

Explanations from experts for the rise in inventory vary from more listings being included from outlying areas beyond Toledo and its suburbs to more foreclosures.

The growing inventory seems to be mostly in the $100,000 to $200,000 range, considered move-up houses, Mr. DiSalle said. They re not selling, he said. In my opinion, we re kind of over-built in that category.

Some experts said one reason for the bigger inventory is the largest companies used to bring in transferees, but don t do that as much anymore. Two of the three largest corporations in Toledo are in bankruptcy, Dana Corp. and Owens Corning.

When interest rates were lower a few years ago, many people refinanced with bigger loans, reducing their equity, making it tougher to now move up to another house, one expert said.

Ohio s ties to the auto industry hasn t helped matters, hurting consumer confidence.

Elsewhere in Ohio, only Akron had a higher decline than Toledo, at 6.3 percent, according to the trade group report. Its median sales price was $104,200.

Prices rose 1.7 percent in Canton ($104,400), and 1.1 percent in Columbus ($141,700) and declined 1.4 percent in Cincinnati ($137,700), 3 percent in Cleveland ($126,800), 1.2 percent in Dayton (108,700), and 1.6 percent in Youngstown ($81,100).

Contact Jon Chavez at: jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.



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