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Archive for Friday, July 24, 2009

Midwest home sales rise 3%

July 24, 2009

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— Home sales in the Midwest, which started recovering in the winter, rose almost 3 percent in June — the first annual increase since September, the National Association of Realtors reported Thursday.

“The evidence seems to suggest that we’re coming off the bottom in sales (in the Midwest),” said Kelly Edmiston, a senior economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. “I think the house prices are so affordable relative to where they’ve been in the last few years that people sense we’re at a bottom for home prices so they feel now is the time to jump in.”

The median sales price in the 12-state region fell 9 percent from year-ago levels to $157,000, as sellers became more realistic about the market and shoppers whittled through a large backlog of foreclosed homes.

Nationally, home resales rose almost 4 percent in June from a year ago while the median sale price dropped 15 percent to $181,800. Home resales also posted their third monthly increase, signaling the broader market is now recovering from the worst housing slump in a generation.

All 12 Midwest cities tracked in the Associated Press-Re/Max Monthly Housing Report, also released Thursday, showed sales gains in each of the past three months. The report analyzed all home sales, regardless of company affiliation, in the metropolitan statistical areas.

Compared with a year ago, existing home sales continued to fall in 8 of the 12 markets, but only two of those — Cleveland and Omaha, Neb. — showed double-digit losses, the AP-Re/Max report said. Nine cities showed double-digit falls in May.

Median home prices, however, fell in all 12 markets.

The biggest sales gains continued to come in Detroit and Minneapolis, where dramatic drops in median sales prices, brought on by struggling economies in both cities, have attracted bargain hunters and investors.

Detroit home resales rose 21 percent from June last year while the median sale price fell almost 45 percent — the largest drop in the nation — to $50,500. Minneapolis saw a 19 percent rise in sales and a 17 percent drop in the median sale price to $172,500.

But sales rose in some other cities that had mostly seen losses in the preceding months. In Milwaukee, sales increased almost 8 percent from a year ago while the median sale price declined 11 percent to $174,000.

Sue Derby, an agent with ShoreWest Realtors in nearby Waukesha, Wis., estimated about 65 percent of her clients have been first-time buyers wanting to take advantage of the federal tax credit, helping the market for homes up to $250,000.

Melissa Bream, with Re/Max Stars in St. Louis, said her office has seen a large number of first-time buyers. But she also said about one in four sales are so-called “short sales,” where the bank agrees to take less than what is still owed on the home in an effort to avoid foreclosure.

Overall, the market saw a 3 percent increase in existing home sales in June, according to the AP-Re/Max report, while the median sale price declined almost 7 percent to $145,000.

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