More homes sell locally, but transaction prices lower
Statistics from the area’s Multiple Listing Service — published online by the Emmet Association of Realtors — showed 247 residential sales from January through March 2012, up from the 222 completed during the first three months of 2011.
The area’s average transaction price for the first quarter of 2012 stood at $159,612, down from $186,404 during that time frame a year earlier.
The median transaction price — reflecting the midpoint on the list of prices, and a measure less vulnerable to skewing by a few large transactions — decreased from $118,200 in the first quarter of 2011 to $104,000 during the first three months of 2012.
These statistics reflect sales in Emmet, Charlevoix and Antrim counties, with a few sales handled by local Realtors in other nearby counties included in the tally as well.
“Our activity is up pretty substantially,” said Bill Winslow, managing broker at the Coldwell Banker Schmidt Realtors office in Petoskey.
In terms of dollar volume, Winslow said a direct year-to-year comparison for his office could be difficult to establish, since Coldwell Banker Schmidt expanded in the past year when it absorbed staff from another local real estate agency that closed.
Based on his analysis of Multiple Listing Service statistics, Winslow said a year-to-year increase in sales involving entry-level homes may be a factor in the decreased average and median transaction prices for the market overall, rather than home values trending downward.
Winslow said lenders recently have seemed less guarded about granting home mortgages than they did immediately after the housing market slowdown and financial-sector crisis of the late 2000s, which may be bringing more entry-level buyers into the market.
“Due to loosening credit, we’ve seen an increase in sales in that sub-$100,000 market,” he noted.
C.T. Shuman, president at Real Estate One of Petoskey, said his agency saw year-over-year increases in units sold as well as dollar volume in the first three months of 2012. He noted that the local Real Estate One office has continued to see strong business from entry-level buyers, and that activity around the middle-priced portion of the market — in the $200,000 to $300,000 range — has picked up recently as well.
“That’s been encouraging for us to see,” he said. “There seemed to be a lack of that last year.”
Shuman noted that inventory, especially in the middle part of the market, has tightened from the previous year, making it challenging to help some buyers find exactly what they’re looking for.
Statistics showed 1,683 units on the market locally during March 2012, compared to 1,845 for that month in 2011.
Shuman said this trend may reflect homeowners who don’t need to sell immediately deferring their listings to see if values rebound.
Winslow said he’s noticed tightness in the local market’s inventory, too.
“My interpretation is, it’s the classic supply and demand model that we’re seeing now,” he added. “It seems like there’s great demand and small supply. Values will follow that equation (and move upward).”
At Harbor Sotheby’s International Real Estate — a Bay Harbor-based agency specializing in waterfront and second/third homes — sales director Tracy Bacigalupi said the first quarter typically is one of the slower times of year for such transactions, but that there’s been a satisfying level of activity in the first quarter of 2012.
“I think all the signs are pointing toward a fantastic year,” she said.
Price trends for waterfront and vacation properties have been holding steady recently, Bacigalupi said, and interest in vacant properties has been increasing. While not all buyers may intend to build homes immediately, the sales director said vacant properties seem popular for those seeking a location near a golf course or otherwise tailored to their lifestyle, and who want to take advantage of the attractive pricing currently available.
Harbor Sotheby’s also is involved in vacation rentals, and Bacigalupi said this year’s booking trend for these — along with hotel reservations at Bay Harbor — has been strong. Noting that these visits sometimes lead people toward local real estate purchases, she finds the trend encouraging.
Some comparisons of local residential real estate trends between the first quarter of 2012 and the same period a year earlier:
Period: January-March 2012 January-March 2011
Units sold 247 222
Average transaction price $159,612 $186,404
Median transaction price $104,000 $118,200
Source: Multiple Listing Service statistics
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