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Regional housing costs echo U.S. slump

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    Sellers may be urged to show patience, but some take other steps to expedite the process.



Stacy Alani didn't need a report from a realty trade group to know that homes sales in metro Toledo have declined from a year ago.

"Home sales are down and listings are way up," said Ms. Alani, a real estate agent for Welles Bowen Realtors.

In northwest Ohio, the cost of a median-price home - half cost more, half less - was $109,800 in the second quarter of 2007, a drop in price of 5.2 percent from a year earlier, the National Association of Realtors said yesterday.

The report covers the important April-through-June period when the home-shopping season kicks off and buyers typically take advantage of warm weather.

The Toledo area wasn't the only Ohio locale to face a downturn, although its decrease was among the largest in the state.



Median prices fell 1.9 percent in Cincinnati, 7.1 percent in Cleveland, 1.2 percent in Columbus, 0.2 percent in Dayton, and 2.5 percent in Youngstown.

Akron and Canton both experienced slight price increases of 1.5 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively.

Nationally, the median price of existing single-family homes fell 1.5 percent in the quarter to $223,800, the Realtors group said.

Overall, sales of existing homes fell in 41 states during the April-June period. Home prices were down in one-third of the metropolitan areas the group surveys.

Experts said the figures underscore the breadth and severity of the current housing slump, which is considered the worst downturn in 16 years. Home prices dropped in three of four regions in the United States.

But the trade group said there was some glimmer of hope.


Sellers may be urged to show patience, but some take other steps to expedite the process.


Existing home prices were up in 97 of the 149 metropolitan areas surveyed compared with sales prices of a year ago. That represented an improvement from the first quarter, when just over half of the areas surveyed showed price gains.

Walter Molony, a spokesman for the Realtors organization, said the Midwest, despite having homes that are among the most affordable in the country, has been particularly hard hit by a slumping economy.

"Jobs are going to be the biggest factor right now in the decision to buy homes. You have a hesitancy by buyers to hold back and look for signs of stability," Mr. Molony said.

In the second quarter of last year, the cost of a median-price home in the metro Toledo area was $115,800. Ms. Alani said that, because of lower interest rates, she was showing and listing more houses and moving more prospective buyers into homes.

But as a barometer of the current trend, just two days ago the owners of a home on Secor Road in Lambertville, Mich., who had listed with her firm, dropped their asking price by $20,000 to $179,000, Ms. Alani said.

"It is great to be a buyer right now. Buyers are getting a little more for their money," Ms. Alani said. "I am telling people who want to sell that they have many other homeowners to compete with."

By contrast, though, the condominium market in the metro Toledo market is rebounding. The Realtors group said second quarter sales for median-priced units jumped 11.4 percent to $145,800.

In comparison, Columbus and Cincinnati had declines of 5.1 and 2.5 percent, respectively.

The upward movement regionally for condo sale prices was contrary to trends in similar markets, Mr. Molony said.

But, it could indicate a change in lifestyle for empty-nesters and the baby-boom generation who are looking to downsize and are moving into higher-price condos, the spokesman said.

"There could be a change in composition in the mix of condos with more luxury units being sold," he said.

As of July 31, there were 9,400 homes and condos available for sale in northwest Ohio, a figure that equates to nearly a 13-month supply of homes.

"It is definitely a surplus. We have got a lot of homes on the market," said Ray Henderson, president of the Toledo Board of Realtors. "I think that is bringing down the value of homes so much."

Mr. Henderson said he believes homes sales generally have been impacted by the war in Iraq and the resulting slowdown in the economy, and that prospective home buyers could be delaying purchases until the economy improves.

"I think we will have a better year in 2008 and I think you will see the best year that we have had in a long time in 2009," he said. "It will change from a buyer's market to a seller's market."

Contact Mark Reiter at:

or 419-724-6096.

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