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Housing sales remain strong

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Realtor Jason Johnson replaces a "For Sale" sign with a "Sold" sign at a recently sold home in Worthington.

WORTHINGTON -- 'For Sale' signs are being turned into 'Sold' signs on the front lawns of many Worthington homes -- a sure sign that spring has sprung and the housing market continues at a strong pace locally.

Nationwide, however, the picture isn't quite as rosy. According to a National Association of Realtors (NAR) report released last Thursday, home sales in April slipped and the market is underperforming.

"Given the great affordability conditions, job creation and pent-up demand, home sales should be stronger," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. "Although existing-home sales are expected to trend up unevenly through next year, unnecessarily tight credit is continuing to restrain the market, along with a steady level of low appraisals that result in contract cancellations."

Matt Larson, owner/broker of Real Estate Retrievers in Worthington said locally sales have been brisk this spring following a somewhat quiet winter season.

While in Washington, D.C., little more than a week ago for the National Realtors Association, Larson said he learned housing prices in the Midwest still haven't rebounded to the peak witnessed four or five years ago. Still, this region is better off than other parts of the country.

"In Nevada, prices have dropped 60 percent," he said. "We've maybe dropped 5 percent, on average."

With tougher regulations on home loans and more documentation on "like sales" needed by appraisers, there are more challenges for people looking to buy in today's market.

"Three to five years ago, financing was very easy -- you could go in and get a loan with stated income," said Steve Johnson of Johnson Builders & Realtors. Sub-prime loans were offered to people, and when a lot of those went bad nationwide, it created an economic disaster in the country's housing sector.

As that tide continues to turn, Larson said people continue to buy homes -- it just takes a little longer and is a little more work.

"If people are looking to buy, it might be a real good time right now," Larson added. "There is a bill in Congress that may require 20 percent down on some loans. I don't know if that is going to take effect, but it might be a good time to get a loan now."

Larson, Johnson and Larry Janssen of Janssen Realty, all who work in the real estate market locally, said spring housing sales have been great. Traditionally, spring is the best season for home sales.

"We've been busy," said Janssen. "The market in Worthington is good and the home prices are staying pretty stable. Interest rates are great."

"Worthington's market through all of this national downturn in housing has stayed pretty solid," added Johnson. His agency is on target to sell about 130 homes this year, with 50 sales already recorded by the middle of May.

Johnson said the quickest sales they are seeing is in homes priced between $95,000 and $170,000.

"That's a pretty hot price range," he said. "We are selling some homes lower than that and the $175,000 on up has picked up. We're very pleased with that."

For Janssen, the best sellers have been those homes priced under $100,000.

"The market is good in Worthington -- in fact, I need listings. Inventory has gone down. There's people constantly looking."

Larson echoed that statement.

"We've got houses to sell, but we certainly could have a lot more," he said. "Houses will sell quite fast as they are listed, it would be nice to have more houses for people to look at."

The quickest sales for Real Estate Retrievers have been in the $130,000 to $180,000 price range, with buyers ranging from those new to the community to those looking to upgrade or downsize.

A lot of the homes Janssen has sold are to families looking for more square footage and "at least a two-car garage." Another popular feature people are looking for are homes with a family room, he said.

Johnson said he is amazed by the number of people new to the community who are looking to buy a home locally.

"There's a lot of movement that way and a lot of great new people coming into our community looking for housing," he said. Oftentimes, those same people own homes in other communities where it may not be as easy to get their property sold.

"That is a bit of a challenge," Johnson said. "When they come from a market that has softened, it maybe takes them a little longer to get their home sold."

Johnson said Worthington never really had a lull in home sales despite what was happening on the national level.

"We were very fortunate," he said. "It is important for the community of Worthington to realize our market doesn't parallel what's happened nationwide. We've got a solid market here."

"It's a great time to buy a home with the interest rates being down," added Janssen. "I think it's an excellent time -- I wouldn't hesitate."

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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