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Published: Thursday, 3/11/2010

Lucas County home sales down 10% in February from year ago

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Home sales in Lucas County dropped 10 percent in February compared to a year ago but the decline is less than the previous month's drop and the average home price remains higher than last year.

"I think what that shows is that we've got real buyers out there and not investors out there trying to pick up foreclosed homes at a low price," said Mary Ann Coleman, a real estate agent with Welles Bowen and the president of the Toledo Board of Realtors.

The board's figures, released yesterday, showed there were 232 homes sold in February in Lucas County compared to 257 for the same month a year ago. January's sales number was down 21 percent from a year earlier.

For the 14 counties in northwest Ohio covered by the Board of Realtors, sales last month totaled 362, down 7 percent from a year ago. In January, sales were down 14 percent.

Ms. Coleman said the numbers suggest that the local housing market is on a steady climb upwards from the bottom. "I think I feel we've turned the corner on that, but we're still not out of the woods yet," she said. "It's going to take a long time to recover."

Both January and February sales might have been better but snowy weather both months hurt chances for interested buyers to get out and house-hunt, Ms. Coleman said. March and April will be strong indicators of whether the local housing market is on the road to recovery or not, she said.

The April 30 expiration of a federal tax credit of up to $8,000 for home buyers should help sales in the next month and a half, real estate experts say.

The average sales price locally last month climbed to $83,320 in Lucas County, up 10 percent from a year earlier. But the price was down 2 percent to $86,773 in northwest Ohio, the board's report shows.

Ms. Coleman said interested buyers seem to be returning to the market, but some may have problems getting loans as mortgage underwriting guidelines have stiffened significantly.

"Lenders are just being very, very conservative with underwriting guidelines right now," she said.

Contact Jon Chavez at:

jchavez@theblade.com

or 419-724-6128.



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