Howard County home sales down 16.2% over 2010 numbers

Realtors say home buyers tax credit has thrown off comparisons

Home sales in Howard County continued to decline in March after a federal tax incentive last year led to a rush of sales, then a lag.

Realtors closed on 181 homes January through March in Howard County. Sales were down 16.2 percent from 216 during the same period in 2010, according to a report the Indiana Association of Realtors released Monday.

Median prices have increased 2.9 percent to $70,000 from $68,000.

More people have begun shopping in the last few weeks with the approach of summer, which is usually the busiest time for the housing market, said Jean Ferenc, office manager for F.C. Tucker/Tomlinson Realtors.

Three-bedroom homes between $70,000 and $120,000 have been the typical houses that shoppers are looking for, Ferenc said.

Average home prices have remained lower than before the recession because of large numbers of foreclosed homes on the market.

Penny Irwin, broker and owner for Re/Max Realty One in Kokomo, said about 40 percent of homes sold have been foreclosures.

Business at Re/Max, Irwin said, has been opposite of Howard County’s trend. Agents at the real estate firm have increased sales by about 16 percent so far this year after a difficult 2010.

The Indiana Association of Realtors and its members have repeatedly stated since last year that comparing sales figures to a year earlier is difficult to do accurately.

The federal First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit led to unusually large amounts of sales in 2009 and 2010. Sales slumped after it expired last year.

People buying their first homes could receive up to $8,000 from the tax credit program. Previous homeowners buying another house could receive up to $6,500.

“A lot of people thought ‘Boy, when the government takes that IV out of our arm, it’s going to be tough,” Irwin said.

Ferenc said tax refunds and bonuses at some of Kokomo’s largest employers have appeared to lead a few people to begin shopping for a home.

More people have been paying cash for homes than they used to, she said.

Irwin said she has noticed more buyers entering conditional contracts, such as they need to be able to cash in a 401(k) before buying.

Sales throughout Indiana decreased 7.3 percent January through March. Median prices have remained the same at $102,500.

About the author:
• Daniel Human is the Kokomo Tribune business reporter