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Published: Friday, 7/16/2010

Record-low mortgage rates spur Toledo house sales, prices

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
A buyer is sought for a home in the 2300 block of Middlesex Drive. Realtors say the market appears headed in the right direction. A buyer is sought for a home in the 2300 block of Middlesex Drive. Realtors say the market appears headed in the right direction.
THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge | Buy This Photo

With mortgage rates at their lowest point in decades, the Toledo area's housing market is perking up, especially among first-time home buyers and those who have delayed selling, though some nervousness about the economy remains.

The key to successful sales, some in the local real estate industry said, is pricing houses low enough to entice buyers.

Rates for 30-year fixed mortgages are well below 5 percent, and 15-year fixed mortgages can be found as low as 4 percent, industry officials said.

"It really does create energy in the market," said Elizabeth Kollar, senior vice president of consumer lending for Fifth Third Bank (Northwestern Ohio). "Everybody's looking for that great buy."

Nationwide, the average rate this week for 30-year fixed mortgages was 4.57 percent, the same as last week, and the average was 4.6 percent for the nine-state region including Ohio and Michigan, according to government-sponsored mortgage buyer Freddie Mac.

The national rate is the lowest since Freddie Mac began tracking rates in 1971 and is hovering at 50-year lows, according to Freddie Mac.

For 15-year fixed mortgages, average rates were 4.06 percent nationwide this week, down from 4.07 percent last week, and were 4.08 percent in the region including Ohio and Michigan, Freddie Mac reported yesterday.

Average house sale prices in Lucas County were $114,277 last month, up from $101,798 in May, according to the Toledo Board of Realtors.

There were 433 houses sold last month, up 7 percent from May, it said.

Housing market activity and prices picked up earlier this year before federal tax credits for buyers expired at the end of April. Then sales cooled in May before heating up again in mid-June as people tried to make their housing moves while school is out, some industry officials said.

"It's been a roller coaster," said Joseph DiSalle, manager broker at the Maumee/Arrowhead Park office of DiSalle Real Estate Co.

"We're cautiously optimistic about the back part of the year, but at least we're headed in the right direction, in a better direction," he added.

Jim Loss of Loss Realty Group said low mortgage rates are helping. But people still are a little nervous about the overall economy and employment, both of which are improving but slowly, he said.

"People have to have jobs, and they have to feel good about the future no matter what the cost of money," Mr. Loss said.

Mortgage broker Shane Marzullo said first-time home buyers, especially single women, are making up the bulk of housing sales. They don't seem as concerned about the economy, said Mr. Marzullo of Greentree Mortgage Services in Holland.

Mr. Marzullo said he also is getting a lot of calls from clients asking about refinancing their mortgages, although he advises against many such moves because people would not save enough money to make it worthwhile.

"The biggest thing is it's got to make sense for the person," he said.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at:

jmckinnon@theblade.com

or 419-724-6087.



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