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Published: Tuesday, 1/10/2012

Home sales increase, but prices still falling

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Single-family home sales in Lucas County and a 10-county region of northwest Ohio rose 4 percent and 2 percent, respectively, in 2011, marking only the second time in the last six years that home sales were on the upswing.

According to preliminary figures from the Toledo Board of Realtors, 6,373 homes were sold in the 10-county multiple listing service area that includes Lucas and Wood counties, an increase of 2 percent over the 6,222 homes sold in 2010. In Lucas County, 3,895 homes were sold, compared to 3,757 in 2010.

Even more encouraging were sales numbers from December, traditionally one of the slower months for home buying.

In the 10-county area, 529 homes were sold in December, an increase of 5 percent over the 503 houses sold in December, 2010. In Lucas County, 349 homes were sold in December, a 16 percent increase over the 301 homes sold for the same month a year earlier.

"This was one of my busiest Decembers ever," said Barbara Stout, president of the Toledo Board of Realtors and a real estate agent with the Danberry Co. "I think the January numbers will be good too."

Ms. Stout said she believes the area is starting to see the seeds of a recovery.

"My personal feeling is prices aren't going to be up to what they were for a while, but we're going in the right direction. Consumer confidence is better and interest rates are still low," she said.

The area also has had some job expansion announcements, including those at Chrysler's Toledo Assembly operation, which has boosted morale, Ms. Stout added.

Also, the weather has been good this winter, which sometimes helps with sales.

"When it gets nasty out, people tend to hibernate," she said.

While the sales numbers were good, home price data continued to be discouraging.

The average home-sales price for 2011 declined 2 percent to $100,952 from $103,253 in the 10-county area. In Lucas County, the 2011 average home sales price declined 3 percent to $94,138 from $96,857.

The average price in December was $95,272, down 12 percent in the 10-county area. It was $80,243, down 19 percent in Lucas County.

Ms. Stout said the home prices clearly are a facet of the continuing problem with foreclosed properties in the county and the region.

"I still think there's a lot of foreclosures out there, and they're going to have to go through the system before prices go up," she said.

Ms. Stout, who works out of the Danberry office in Perrysburg, said most of her suburban colleagues experienced a busy fall and winter.

But Dan Lepkowski, a real estate agent with Re/Max Central who handles home sales primarily in Toledo, said the Toledo market isn't recovering as quickly as the suburbs.

Sales in Toledo remain slow, he said, "but I think the interest rates and the prices are getting to the point where people can't resist."

Mr. Lepkowski said "there are always little rays of optimism" in the Toledo market, but they do not seem to last.

Whether the market has bottomed out is difficult to say, he said, but the lower prices and interest rates will help turn things around in the long run.

"When the prices are down, things start to sell and that thins out the inventory a little. Eventually, that will help things turn around," he said.

Sales of condos and villas in 2011 also showed improvement in 2011.

In the 10-county area, 399 condos or villas were sold, an increase of 9 percent over the 366 sold in 2010. In Lucas County, 289 units were sold, an increase of 11 percent over 2011.

Contact Jon Chavez at: jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.



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