Through the first nine months of 2011, residential real estate transactions in Northwest Michigan tended to carry higher prices than during the same time frame in the previous year, based on statistics from the Multiple Listing Service.
These figures deal with residential home transactions handled by Realtors in an area that includes Emmet, Charlevoix and Antrim counties, along with some neighboring areas where local agents handled sales.
The median figure, representing the midpoint of all transaction prices, offers a gauge of pricing trends that’s less vulnerable than the average price figure to skewing by a few high-cost transactions.
From January through September, the Multiple Listing Service figures showed a moderate year-to-year decrease in the number of units sold in the area, down from 849 in the first nine months of 2010 to 811 for that time frame in 2011. But for the third quarter of 2011 — the most recent quarter to be completed — the picture improved from the previous year, with 329 residential sales compared to the year-ago total of 307.
CT Shuman, broker owner at Real Estate One of Petoskey, said his agency has seen some year-over-year growth in residential transactions as of late, both in terms of sale prices and the number of properties sold.
“The second half of this year has definitely been more active than the first half,” he added.
Shuman said positive sales trends have appeared in several segments of the market, from entry-level homes to mid-priced residences to high-end resort properties.
Pat O’Brien, broker/owner at the Pat O’Brien & Associates real estate office in Boyne City, sees his agency’s sales performance positively this year as well, both for primary residences and properties used as second homes.
“We had a good year,” he said. “It was as strong as last year.”
But following the downturn in real estate — and other economic indicators — that occurred locally and nationally around 2008, O’Brien said prices don’t seem to have fully stabilized again, and that some consumers seem to be “waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
In recent years, the presence of numerous foreclosed homes on the market has had a restraining effect on local real estate prices. Shuman said the influence from foreclosures remains in place, although various lenders seem to be working more with borrowers who encounter difficulties. Short sales — in which lenders agree that a property can be sold at a price lower than the balance owed on the mortgage, rather than carrying the foreclosure process through — represent one method by which this occurs.
O’Brien noted that lenders recently have seemed inclined to avoid flooding the market with foreclosed properties.
Following the breaking of the U.S. housing market bubble several years ago, Shuman noted that lenders have been taking a stricter approach to the financing process for homes, both in appraisal requirements and vetting borrowers’ qualifications in the underwriting process. But for qualified buyers, he said the hurdles aren’t insurmountable.
“Banks have never stopped lending money,” he said. “It’s just that they’re doing their due diligence a little more than they used to.”
On a positive note for buyers, Shuman noted that “interest rates are still extremely good,” citing one recent lender’s offer of a 3.875 percent fixed interest rate for a 30-year mortgage as an example.
With prices remaining lower than a few years ago and interest rates low as well, “it’s a good time to get into the market and take advantage of some of those things,” he said.