PETOSKEY -- Area Realtors saw the number of local residential property sales rise in 2012 compared with the previous year, with the combined dollar volume for those transactions growing year-to-year as well.
While average and median prices for those transactions were down year-to-year for the area as a whole, some agents see potential for that trend to begin turning around.
These figures include residential sales in Emmet, Charlevoix and Antrim counties, with a few sales handled by local Realtors in other nearby counties included in the tally as well.
For this area, the average residential transaction price stood at $209,905 for 2012, down from $216,219 in the prior year. The median transaction price -- reflecting the midpoint on the list of prices, and a measure less vulnerable to skewing by a few large transactions -- also moved downward a bit, standing at $125,000 in 2012 compared to $126,000 in 2011.
CT Shuman, broker/owner at Real Estate One in Petoskey, said the downward movement in average and median prices seems to reflect stronger activity toward the entry-level end of the market.
"The financing seems ... easier to obtain," he said. "People with good jobs, good income and good credit ratings are having an easier time getting financing."
Like the local market as a whole, Shuman said his Real Estate One office saw its dollar volume and count of transactions increase in 2012 from the previous year.
"We sold a little bit of everything (in 2012)," Shuman said. "Condominium sales were strong. Some resort-type properties seem to have sold well this year, which I think is relating to jobs. We're seeing some hiring in the auto industry, and that helps those resort sales."
Along with stronger job security, Shuman said another trend that may have helped 2012 sales is empty-nesters looking to downsize.
Richard Lobenherz, a Charlevoix-based co-owner of Prudential Preferred Properties Network, said the overall business trend for his real estate agency was also positive in 2012.
"From our standpoint, we were up over 60 percent in 2012 versus 2011 as far as dollar volume goes companywide," Lobenherz said, noting that this calculation included residential as well as commercial transactions.
Lobenherz also noted local Multiple Listing Service statistics indicating that a larger percentage of listed properties sold during 2012 than in the previous year. Area-wide, the number of sales (including residential and commercial) was 45.5 percent in 2012, up from 36.5 percent in 2011.
"We're very happy with the direction where things are going from that standpoint," he said.
Shuman and Lobenherz also noted that the local inventory of residential properties has tightened recently.
Some remaining effects from the real estate market dropoff in the late 2000s may factor in this trend.
"There's still some (cases where property values remain) below their peak," Shuman said. "The equity is not there that will allow (homeowners) to sell."
With demand for homes on the rise and inventories tight, some real estate agents see potential for typical transaction prices to begin moving upward.
"We've seen the bottom, it would appear, and I think we're going to see prices starting to inch their way up," Lobenherz said.
While home sellers may see dollar benefits from the combination of limited inventory and growing demand, Shuman said this can challenge some buyers in finding a home that meets their desires. Some buyers perhaps might begin to consider purchasing vacant land and constructing a new home, he added.
In 2012, "we started to see some (vacant land sales) activity where the activity had almost been non-existent for the previous few years," he said.
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