Traverse City Record-Eagle

October 5, 2012

Region's home prices, sales up; inventory declining


— TRAVERSE CITY -- Homes that have been on the market for three years are suddenly selling. Others that are fresh on the market meet with competing offers from multiple buyers.

Those are a few of the realities behind the Traverse Area Association of Realtors’ newly released numbers for regional September home sales. It appears that business is, all things considered, booming.

In all, 281 listings were sold in the five-county Grand Traverse region in September, up from 202 in 2011 and a low of 150 in 2008. The median sales price was $165,000. That’s also up — from $157,250 in 2011 and $152,375 in 2008.

Year to date, 1,960 residential sales and 332 vacant land transactions were reported. That’s a huge leap over 2011, when there were 1,501 residential sales and 256 in vacant land — the biggest jump in years.

Median home sales price for January to September is $144,950, as compared to $137,500 in 2011 and $129,700 in 2009.

“What that’s telling us is what I’ll call the baseline value of real estate in the region is increasing,” said Kim Pontius, executive vice president of the Traverse Area Association of Realtors.

A particularly bright spot is Leelanau County, where Pontius said properties are holding value and selling at higher prices than in the other counties. September’s median sales price there was $245,000, compared to $165,750 in Grand Traverse, $164,000 in Antrim, $145,500 in Benzie and $88,000 in Kalkaska.

The five-county average for days on the market for September increased slightly compared to last year, but dropped significantly in two: Grand Traverse — from 182 days in 2011 to 149 in 2012, and Leelanau — from 282 in 2011 to 231 this year.

Mike Schmidt, president and owner of Coldwell Banker Schmidt Realtors, said his company’s sales are up about 30 percent over a year ago and have been “consistently strong” for at least a year. Low interest rates — around 3.66 percent for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage on Friday — have helped. So has growing consumer confidence, he said.

“It definitely feels like we’re beyond a turning point,” he said.

In fact, inventory is declining. Construction on new custom homes is picking up, but builders haven’t begun producing spec inventory as they were before the economic downturn. Foreclosures remain a factor, but they’re not flooding the market, Schmidt said.

“We’re climbing out,” Pontius said. “We’re not there yet, but we’re moving in the right direction and moving at a manageable pace for the marketplace.”