Kokomo Home Sales See 11.8 Percent Increase In July

Real estate agents for the first time in 2011 sold more Howard County homes than they did a year before.

Agents last month closed on 85 homes in the county. It was nine more, an 11.8 percent increase, compared to July 2010, according to a report the Indiana Association of Realtors released Monday.

Nicki Whiteman, an associate broker for Re/Max Realty One in Kokomo, said recent turmoil on Wall Street and elsewhere in the economy did not appear to scare off buyers. Year-to-date sales for the firm have increased 21 percent over 2010.

“We’ve done much better this summer,” Whiteman said. “Honestly, our July was a pretty hot month.”

Countywide, sales for the whole year have remained lower than over the same seven months in 2010. There have been 532 sales since Jan. 1, which is down 10 percent from 591.

July’s home sales were also down from June’s, when agents closed on 98 homes, making for a 13.3 percent decline.

Monthly home sales reports have had accompanying statements from the Indiana Association of Realtors noting skewed comparisons between this year’s sales and last year’s because of a federal tax credit.

To cash in on the credit, which was potentially worth $8,000, buyers had to make an offer on a house by April 30, 2010, and close by Sept. 30. After the government incentive ended, sales slowed through the year, dropping from a 65.6 percent June sales boost to 3 percent by December.

Median sales prices decreased 4.7 percent in July to $71,450 from $75,000.

Jean Ferenc, vice president and office manager for F.C. Tucker/Tomlinson Inc., said more buyers have been paying with cash.

“They just don’t want to mess with the mortgage,” Ferenc said. “[Lenders are] wanting a lot more information, data, all kinds of things to get loans approved. It’s a little bit tougher to get the financing end.”

Ryan Minick, a mortgage adviser for First Republic Mortgage in Kokomo, said the business’ lending practices are “a good example of what’s happened nationally.”

“Lending is definitely a little tighter,” he said. “It’s just more documented.”

He agreed more people have bought homes with cash, but many of those houses appear to be foreclosed properties which often sell as low as $10,000.

Mortgage interest rates are at a record-setting low.

Freddie Mac last week released a report that revealed a national average of 4.15 percent interest for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages.

Along with low interest rates, Minick noted home-buying incentive programs from agencies such as the Federal Housing Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The interest rates and incentives are combating a housing market that has been fatigued by high unemployment, nationally and locally.

Howard County had 10 percent unemployment in July, according to estimates the state released last week. The national rate was 9.3 percent.

Author • Daniel Human is the Kokomo Tribune business reporter

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