By Jamison Cocklin
Sales of new and existing homes throughout Ohio and the Mahoning Valley continued to rise in June, showing new evidence of a recovery.
Home sales throughout Ohio increased 10.6 percent in June, helping the marketplace record its 12th consecutive monthly sales gain, according to data from the Ohio Association of Realtors.
Likewise, sales in Mahoning and Trumbull counties increased decidedly in June.
Realtors sold 66 more home, for 205 closings in Mahoning County, according to the Youngstown Columbiana Association of Realtors. The median price of homes also increased from $63,000 in June 2011 to $87,500 this year.
Low inventories combined with steadily rising list prices are signs that local and statewide markets are gaining solid traction and entering a mild recovery, Realtors say.
Realtors throughout the Valley attribute the gains to cheaper mortgages and lower home prices attracting more buyers.
“It just seems like people’s confidence is a little bit better in this area,” said Yvonne Smith, Warren area regional president for the Ohio Association of Realtors. “There’s more opportunity for employment and people are feeling more stable in the jobs they have.”
Both Smith and Michael Klacik, broker at Klacik Realty in Poland, noted that pent-up demand held over from the recession is beginning to reveal itself in improved sales figures. Smith added that low interest rates and a host of programs designed to stimulate borrowing and make refinancing easier are also adding to the market’s momentum.
In Trumbull County, 146 homes were sold in June while only 65 were sold a year earlier. The price of homes there has increased too, going from $63,000 in June 2011 to $76,500 this year.
On the other hand, sales figures from Columbiana County, where 167 homes had closed in June 2011, showed that only 65 were sold this year. The median home price also decreased by $1,000 to $74,000 this year.
But Pat Gallagher, of Pat Gallagher Realty, who has offices in Columbiana County, said the area is slowly bucking that trend. Since the beginning of July, she said a stark change in sales has occurred.
“We’ve been selling higher priced homes,” Gallagher said. “Everyone has just waited so long and things are looking better because of all this Marcellus Shale activity.
“It’s not going to be anything really awesome,” she added. “But the confidence here is just getting better.”
To be sure, confidence from those within the industry is far above where it stood last year at this time.
The Ohio Association of Realtors reported that 86 percent of the Realtors it surveyed described the current housing market in their area as “moderate to strong” up from 57 percent a year ago.
Nationally, economists anticipate that housing starts and existing home sales could contribute to overall economic growth for the first time since 2005.
In Ohio, sales of new and existing homes posted a 12.8 percent increase during the first six months of 2012 compared to the same period a year ago, reaching 52,896 sales versus the 2011 mark of 46,914.
Economically, the state has witnessed 10 consecutive months of reduced unemployment, which stood at 7.3 percent in May, lower than the national average of 8.2 percent which was last recorded for June.
Nationally, sales of new and existing homes in May were up 10 percent from a year ago.
On Tuesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernake highlighted improvements in the national housing market, which stands in direct contrast with the weakening economy.
For this reason, local Realtors remain cautiously optimistic.
“We’re not quite there yet,” Klacik said. “But we’re seeing a lot of good potential in the pent-up demand that exists out there right now, and we’re heading in the right direction.”