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Real-estate slump hits close to home

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It is great news for people looking to buy houses, but not so good for the sellers.

Nearly 9,400 houses and condominiums in the Toledo area are for sale, up almost 2 percent from a year ago and 18 percent from two years ago, according to the Toledo Board of Realtors.

"It's still a buyer's market. There is an excess inventory," said Dan Lepkowski, an agent with ReMax Central group in Toledo. "This is the most homes for sale that I have ever seen."

Among the inventory of unsold homes, those priced $60,000 to $119,999 and those priced $120,000 to $249,999 each jumped 22 percent from two years ago. In contrast, homes costing more than $250,000 were almost identical to the figure two years ago.

Jon Modene of ReMax Masters in Perrysburg compares the housing slump in the Toledo area and nationwide to the aftermath of the stock market crash in 1929.

"I think the real estate market is the worst that it has ever been since the Great Depression," Mr. Modene said.

Houses for sale on Aug. 31 to-taled 9,358 for the market that includes Lucas, Wood, Fulton, portions of Ottawa, and nine other northwest Ohio counties, the Realtors said.

Sellers range from empty-nesters trying to downsize for retirement to young couples moving to larger homes to people seeking residence in a more upscale neighborhood.

A 21-year real estate veteran, Mr. Lepkowski said, "We have been ramping down for the last 2 1/2 years," he said. "I am hoping that we have reached the bottom and it will begin rising."

But Mr. Modene said the number of unsold homes could be much higher because the real estate board figures don't count frustrated owners who remove unsold houses from the market or foreclosure actions on houses that had been for sale.

"There are a lot of houses that are empty that failed to sell and now are in foreclosure," he said.

The bottom line, Mr. Lepkowski said, is there are many choices for would-be buyers, but there is a lack of buyers.

The Realtors said local sales for August were 823, virtually unchanged from a year ago, but down 18 percent from 2005. The median sales price dropped to $112,000 last month from $124,000 two years ago.

Contact Mark Reiter at:

markreiter@theblade.com

or 419-724-6096.

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