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Home prices drop 4.4 percent in Toledo area

If the Toledo metro area seems packed with incredible bargains for home buyers, that's because it is.

Metro area home prices fell 4.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008 compared with a year earlier - the steepest drop among 11 metro areas in Ohio that were ranked in a study released yesterday by the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

The decline placed the Toledo area at 190th out of 292 metro markets in declining home prices.

The study, which also measured quarter-by-quarter performance, showed that Toledo area home prices were up 1.6 percent in the fourth quarter from the third quarter.

Over a five-year period, local prices fell an average of 1.6 percent.

Dan Lepkowski, a real estate agent with Remax Central Group, said the figures might be a little generous.

"Prices historically are down a lot lower. I'd say the market is down, pricewise, anywhere from 10 percent to 30 percent from where it ought to be."

Recently, he said, he listed a home in Toledo's Old Orchard neighborhood at $239,000. The only offer that came in was for $150,000, and the house has been repriced at $172,500.

"It's where the market is. The market is very, very soft. It's a buyer's market, and with the banks [repossessing] homes, there're some tremendous buys out there whose prices have pulled everything down," Mr. Lepkowski said.

Prices declined in most Ohio metro areas that were measured. In two Ohio metro areas, however, home prices at the end of 2008 had increased from the year before: Springfield's were up 0.8 percent, and Lima's were up 0.6 percent.

Overall, home prices in Ohio fell 6.2 percent from a year earlier, a drop that put the state 33rd nationally, but still well below the U.S. average of 8.2 percent.

Michigan prices fell 11.4 percent, putting the state at 46th overall.

Monroe-area prices fell 17.3 percent, putting the city at 259th out of 292 and making it the worst among all Michigan metro areas.

Tim Stanford, a broker at Yocum Realty in Lima, said he wasn't surprised the Allen County city had rising prices.

It has had a sizable number of foreclosure filings, but not a large number of completed foreclosures that would contribute to driving prices downward, he said.

Also, the area historically has been one of the most affordable markets in the country, he said. "We would have less distance to fall, and we would recover quickly because of that," he said.

But a key reason, Mr. Stanford added, may be that Lima is in the midst of a miniboom.

Several companies have announced expansions, including the Husky Refinery, which is getting a $2 billion upgrade.

The Sandusky area is not considered a standard metro area and thus was not ranked in the federal study, but the report said prices there fell 5.3 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier.

Jeffrey Berquist, broker-owner of Prudential Stadtmiller Realty in Sandusky, said the average home price there has been falling precipitously, but not all is as it seems.

"Those numbers are accurate. But Sandusky is a much smaller market than the other places, and what you're seeing involves fewer homes being transferred," he said. Foreclosures are occurring among higher- priced homes, and that is skewing Sandusky's prices, he added.

"It looks like our whole $100,000 market is now worth $80,000 and that skews it," Mr. Berquist said.

Contact Jon Chavez at:

or 419-724-6128.

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