Valley housing sales slow in December
By Jamison Cocklin
A drop in December home-sales activity across much of the Mahoning Valley did little to blemish gains in sale prices last month, and it didn’t overshadow the market’s strong recovery that occurred throughout 2012.
Recently released data from the Youngstown- Columbiana Association of Realtors show the Valley’s median sales price still is well below other markets across Ohio, but year-end data demonstrate that 2012 was an encouraging year for regional homeowners who saw their equity increase with rising demand for new and previously constructed homes across all three counties.
December was one of just a few months in 2012 when sales activity slowed. Mahoning County was the only market in the Valley to post gains, with a 1.2 percent increase, selling 169 homes last month.
Trumbull County saw a 12.3 percent decrease, selling only 114 homes, a decrease of 16 from December 2011. In Columbiana County, sales declined by 4.7 percent last month, dropping from 64 in 2011 to 61 in December.
“We usually see a slowdown in retail sales around this time of the year, but an increase in auction sales. People don’t want to pay utilities on homes they won’t be occupying,” said Jeff Byce of Byce Auction & Realty in Youngstown.
Still, Byce added that 2012 was a major boon for real estate. So much so that his firm is on its way to a record first quarter, heading into the new year with “an incredible amount of listings for private sale and auctions.”
He expects the uptick in the housing market to continue due to what he perceives as a stronger local economy across all sectors and a spike in mortgage lending from regional banks.
Overall, the 12-month average for closed sales in Mahoning County at year’s end was up 14.9 percent at 182, and in Trumbull County, closed sales were up by 7 percent at an average of 138.
Columbiana was no different. The 12-month average for closed sales showed an increase of 19 percent, for roughly 65 homes sold each month, but the figure was slighted by a 0.2 percent drop in median sales price, going from $72,000 in 2011 to $71,820 last year, the only place in the Valley where a decrease in price occurred.
On the other hand, it appears that for the first time in years, homeowners can count on retaining, or even growing equity in their homes, said Thomas J. Williams, president of the Ohio Association of Realtors.
Median sales price jumped in Mahoning County by 7 percent, from $70,000 in 2011 to $75,000 at year’s end.
In Trumbull, median sales price went up by 10.6 percent, climbing to $73,000 in 2012 from $66,000 a year earlier.
“I think there’s a lot of different factors. People’s confidence is going up as far as jobs and the economy is concerned, and interest rates are extremely low,” Williams said. “It’s affordable for people to purchase homes, and there’s a gradual rebound in the market because of that confidence and stability.”