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Housing market trends contain good news for area

Time for some good news:

The housing market continues to show signs of improvement, including in the Douglas County region of west central Minnesota.

According to the Minnesota Association of Realtors, housing trends have been heating up since July and are homes are "flying off the market." Granted, the group has a vested interest in being optimistic, but the numbers back up the assessment.

Statewide, homes are selling in 70 days or less. In our area, west central Minnesota, the average number of days a home stays on the market until it's sold has dropped 10.5 percent. Through July of last year, it took 143 days for a home to sell. This year, the average is 128 days.

Another positive sign: Closed sales have seen a jump of 13.4 percent statewide while pending sales are racing closely behind with an 8.3 percent increase. Closed sales in our area have also surged, increasing by 22 percent this July compared to last July.

The demand has pushed up prices. Statewide, the median sales price has increased 13.3 percent from $162,000 from last July to $183,500, with sellers receiving 96.1 percent of the original price. Home prices in west central Minnesota have slipped a bit, dropping from $158,500 to $154,950 but they are still higher than the mid to upper $130,000 figures that were common in 2009 and 2010. Homeowners are also selling their homes for prices that are closer to their asking price, coming within 91.2 percent of their original list price, which is 2 percent better than last year.

"July is a peak summer sales month for Minnesota," said Jim Cormier, president of the association. "We tend to see buyers and sellers with families wanting to get settled before the school year starts. This July report reflects people making that commitment to homeownership and communities."

Meanwhile, the number of foreclosures is continuing to decline across the state, according to the Minnesota Homeownership Center. The organization reported that there were only 6,795 foreclosure sales during the first half of this year, a decline of 29 percent compared to the same period in 2012.

These foreclosure levels are at the lowest since 2006.

While the housing recovery in outstate Minnesota may be not as strong, the fact remains that outstate foreclosure sales have declined 23 percent as well.

Positive factors in helping the housing recovery statewide are low interest rates, an improving economy and job growth.

Housing demand is beginning to stabilize or increase housing values, which helps improve home equity levels.

An improving housing market is a good deal for both buyers and sellers.

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Some information in this editorial initially appeared in a West Central Tribune editorial on August 17.