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Local housing market rebounds

Springfield area sales approach levels before market crashed.

If the year ahead is another good one for the region’s housing market, home sales could go back to the levels they were in 2006 before the market crashed, local experts said.

Last year 4,560 homes sold in the whole seven-county region of Auglaize, Champaign, Clark, Logan, Miami and Shelby counties, a 14 percent rise, according to Western Regional Information Systems & Technology Inc. WRIST houses the area’s Multiple Listing Service for realtors to record residential sales and listings. In 2011, it was 3,990 homes sold.

“What that tells us from the number of homes sold, is statistically speaking, if we continue to have another eight, nine months like we’ve had, we would anticipate the numbers this year to be back to those levels or pre-real estate bubble bursting era,” said David Brisker, chief executive officer of WRIST.

Sales prices on average picked up 3.6 percent, from $100,741 in 2011 to $104,338 in 2012.

Going back further, the number of homes sold in 2012 beats sales figures every year since 2006. That year, buyers closed on 4,884 homes in the area.

The seven-county region now has two years under its belt of improving home sales prices. Last year’s $104,338 average sales prices was better than 2010’s by 5.7 percent.

A lot of variables are working positively for Springfield’s and Urbana’s housing industry and should propel the local housing market in 2013: historically low mortgage interest rates, growing demand for housing and more people entering the housing market, said Brisker and Jerome Vinson, a real estate agent and 2013 president of the Springfield Board of Realtors.

The housing market needs people who feel good about their jobs to buy property. People who have been shut out of the market because of poor credit or others reasons are now jumping back in.

“There’s a huge pent-up demand which we think is finally starting to now work its way to the surface,” Brisker said.

The importance of price coming back is for homeowner equity, and if fewer homeowners are ‘underwater,’ it opens up another segment of potential homebuyers, they said.

“Some of those people that have been on the sidelines waiting to get back, they’ve been previous homeowners, so they know the value, they want what they used to have,” Vinson said.

Many people who bought houses in 2012 are people who could afford it.

“We saw a lot of activity with investors the last couple years,” Brisker said. “Investors aren’t going to want to drive the market when there aren’t steals so to speak, but the consumers that are feeling awfully good about their job want to take advantage of low interest rates and before housing gets unaffordable again, those are the ones that we see jumping in the market.”

In Clark County alone, there were 1,122 homes sold in 2012 compared to 944 homes sold in 2011, according to WRIST figures. The average sales price went from $95,354 in 2011 to $93,932 last year.

Home sales last year just in Springfield came to 514 homes sold for $66,769 on average. Sales information for the city in 2011 wasn’t available.

As the numbers show, more homes are selling in Clark County, but not for as much money as they have in the past.

“The values have not come back,” Vinson said. “Units are selling … in the core of Springfield we have a lot of $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 homes that are selling versus back in ’05, those $50,000 homes were selling for pushing $70,000.”

“The county hasn’t seen that much of a drop, but they’re still not back to the same prices,” he said.

Heather Lawrence of Springfield should close this week on the purchase of her first house on Montego Drive. The house is bigger than the place she rents now, and it has a fenced-in yard for her and her two daughters.

“Rates are good. The housing market, I wouldn’t say the housing market is great, but it’s a good time for first-time homebuyers,” Lawrence said. “It’s a buyer’s market right now. You can get houses like I got for cheaper than you would if the market was better.”

The housing market, key to local economies, may be moving in the right direction, but the effects of the crisis still linger. Mark Chapman, of Springfield, said from his home on Kenton Street, there is vacant foreclosed home next to his, one across the road and probably three or four more on the same street.

He and his wife Amy Chapman, are waiting to close a contract to sell their house. Meanwhile, they’re hunting for a new house outside the city in Clark County with more yard space for them and their 14-month-old son.

“We’re looking to move because of the area that we’re in right now. There’s a lot of foreclosures going on in the neighborhood. The neighborhood’s not as good as it used to be when we moved in 24 years ago and we just had our first child,” Chapman said.

Also within the WRIST area, Champaign County saw 312 homes sell in 2012 for an average price of $104,878. The year before, 324 houses sold for an average $91,773.

The final lag in the recovery of the housing market is new construction. A good gauge of activity is the number of residential building permits issued for construction.

Clark County, not including Springfield, issued 35 permits last year for new residences, compared to 41 permits in 2011. Back in 2005, builders in Clark County pulled 256 permits, according to the community development department.

Springfield issued 21 permits in 2012, including 13 units for Spring Meadow Apartments, located at Middle Urbana Road and Villa Road. The city issued 12 permits in 2011. At the height of things in 2007, Springfield homebuilders pulled 84 permits, according to city officials.

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