Home sales stay strong in Valley
By Jamison Cocklin
Strong home-sales activity in the Mahoning Valley remained largely unchanged in July, which proved another positive month for the regional market.
Though average sale prices dropped slightly in Mahoning and Columbiana counties compared with June, they were up from a year ago, and closings increased at a modest pace month-over-month. In Trumbull County, average sale price increased in July versus June, and closings remained steady and mostly unchanged.
Across Ohio, sales activity increased by 13.4 percent, helping the state to record its 13th-consecutive monthly sales gain, and the national housing market continues to be a bright spot amid other less-than-stellar economic indicators such as consumer confidence, overall growth and unemployment.
In the Valley, the promise of the shale-gas boom and strong housing statistics are attracting more homebuyers to the region, according to local brokers.
“Number one is the shale potential; it’s causing a lot of excitement,” said Michael D. Klacik, broker and co-owner at Klacik Real Estate in Poland. “Number two is strong statistics proving low housing prices have made the area more marketable. Even though the national economy is not overly good, we’re kind of a diamond in the rough.”
Earlier this month, the National Association of Home Builders named the Youngstown metro area the most-affordable market in which to buy a home in the United States in this year’s second quarter.
According to the Youngstown Columbiana Association of Realtors, Mahoning County recorded 218 closings, up by 13 from last month and an increase from 2011. The average sale price in the county dropped from $87,500 in June to $83,750 in July.
In Trumbull County, 143 homes were sold in July and 146 in June, but the average sale price went up, from $76,500 in June to $82,000 in July.
“There’s a renewed optimism this year as opposed to the last three years,” Klacik said. “We’ve been finding out that affordable housing in good areas like Struthers, Boardman and Austintown where taxes are moderate and neighborhoods are safe is really attracting excellent clientele.”
Columbiana County posted six more closings than it did in June with 71 recorded in July, but the average sale price across the county declined by more than $6,000 in July compared with the same time a year before. It averaged $68,500 this year.
Still, Pat Gallagher, of Pat Gallagher Realty in Columbiana, said the figures don’t always demonstrate the positive signs brokers see on a day-to-day basis.
“We’re selling at various sale prices, not just on the low side,” she said. “Houses have also been selling quickly; there’s been a number on the market for only a week, and they’ve sold.”
Gallagher added that she was satisfied with the sales pace for this time of year.
The U.S. Commerce Department reported last week that new-home sales increased 3.6 percent in July, matching a two-year high that had been reached in May. Pending home sales also were up by 2.4 percent nationwide, according to the National Association of Realtors.
In Ohio, pending home sales were up for the 15th month in a row, according to a report from the Ohio Association of Realtors.
But local brokers acknowledged that there’s still a long way to go before a full-blown recovery. National foreclosure rates still remain high, with 191,925 recorded in July, according to RealtyTrac.