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Northwest Indiana homes sales improving

Paul Wiechern South County Gypsum   Roofing unloads an order core board for home under constructias workers build neighboring

Paul Wiechern of South County Gypsum & Roofing unloads an order of core board for a home under construction as workers build a neighboring home on Golden Grove Avenue in the Silverleaf subdivision in Dyer, Ind. Friday March 22, 2013. New home sales are making a slow, steady rise. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 26, 2013 6:10AM



Northwest Indiana home sales — both new and existing — are demonstrating healthy growth as the economy continues to recover.

Single-family home sales improved for the 20th straight month in February — to 548 — for the five county area, which includes Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Jasper and Newton, according to data released by the Greater Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors.

GNIAR CEO Pete Novak said the upswing is a promising development.

“Right now we’re seeing unbelievable growth,” Novak said. “Houses are seeing less time on the market. Getting to a balanced, healthy market is important.”

Todd Olthof of Olthof Homes said the pickup in the economy is reflected in the increasing business builders are seeing.

“2011 for most builders was the bottom, 2012 was an improvement, and we think the same steady rise should continue in 2013,” Olthof said.

In January, 28 housing permits were granted in Lake County, which is up slightly from 25 in January 2012.

Novak said some price points are experiencing a shortage in inventory, particularly houses around $200,000.

“It’s still very clearly a buyer’s market, but there will be a point in time when the pendulum is going to swing in the opposite direction.”

The median house price was down in February — to $109,950, which was a $2,150 decrease from February 2012.

Novak said prices can jump around from month to month, so he usually takes a longer view at prices.

“Last year, median selling price was up 2 percent,” Novak said. “The median price will jump around until a bigger portion of short sales and foreclosures get out of market.”

Novak said the distressed properties rate is down to 25 percent, but a National Association of Realtors economist projects that the number will come down to 8 percent in the next three years.

Olthof said he’s seen buyer activity at all price points.

The economic downturn left many builders in a difficult situation. Olthof said that the company continued to work on communities they started in 2007 if they had broken ground.

“Absolutely the costs of building a community exceeded sales prices for a time,” Olthof said.

Novak said GNIAR lost a large chunk of their membership with the downturn, but Novak said 2013 is the first year in a while that he’s budgeted new members since enrollment in Realtor licensing programs is up.

Olthof said an orderly recovery helps in planning from where to build to how many people to hire. Building a home creates about three jobs per house, but it’s impact goes beyond that.

“It’s not just those jobs created,” Olthof said. “If a person moves into an area, they don’t go into the house and shut the door. They’ll go see movie or out to dinner, to sporting event. Money has wonderful multiplier effect.”



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