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Monday, January 21, 2013 9:21 PM

Photo by Matt Bristow/The Ottawa Herald


One hundred and sixty homes sold in Ottawa in 2012 at an average sales price of $94,500, which was $13,000 higher than the average sales price of $81,500 in 2011. Local real estate brokers said Ottawa is poised to see an increase in sales in 2013.

Experts: Housing market swinging back

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer

Prospective buyers looking for the real estate market to bottom out are too late.

Prices are on the rebound, Tammy Ellis, associate broker with Century 21 Lantis & Associates, 2141 Princeton Road, Ottawa, said.

“People waiting for prices to bottom so they can really scoop up a deal waited too long,” Ellis said. “That was a year ago. Prices are rising.”

A good inventory, low interest rates and Ottawa’s desirable location should add up to a robust sales year in 2013, Ottawa real estate veteran Laura Ansley said.

“We have a good residential inventory right now, from genteel, historic homes to small homes for first-time buyers,” Ansley, owner/broker of Prestige Real Estate, 406 S. Main St., Ottawa, said. “There is a good selection of commercial properties available, with some good investment opportunities downtown. Land sales also have been brisk.”

Don K. Burroughs, managing broker of Ottawa Crown Realty, 336 S. Main St., Ottawa, agreed that rural tracts of land have been moving.

“The larger farm tracts have held their value,” Burroughs said. “The housing market has been a little sluggish, but I think we will see it come back. A little encouraging news out of Washington, D.C. would help that. I think people are still waiting to see what’s going to happen [with the economy]. But people are starting to show more interest in buying homes.”

With 30-year fixed interest rates of 3.25 to 3.5 percent and inventory available, Ansley said she thinks Ottawa is a buyer’s market right now.

Ellis agreed it is a good time to buy.

Ellis, who presents Ottawa’s monthly residential sales outlook at the community’s First Friday Forum, recently provided data that showed January was off to a good start. As of Jan. 2, there were 16 pending sales on residential properties with Ottawa addresses.

December 2012 finished strong, with nine sales recorded.

“These are figures for properties in the community and outside the community with Ottawa addresses,” Ellis said. “These aren’t just Century 21 figures. These numbers represent real estate sales across the board.”

Ottawa recorded 160 residential property sales in 2012, Ellis said. While those figures were down compared to 2011, when 178 homes with Ottawa addresses sold, the average sales price in 2012 increased $13,000, from $81,500 in 2011 to $94,500 last year, she reported at the Jan. 4 Friday Forum.

Ellis said Thursday that average residential list prices in the $95,000 to $99,000 range are more the norm for this market.

“If you take out the boom, with the highest prices in 2006, we are actually right where we should be,” Ellis said. “We saw an artificial price increase around 2006.”

When the housing bubble burst about seven years ago, prices bottomed out across the country.

“People are talking about price increases, but keep in mind we are talking about increases out of historic 50-year lows,” Ellis said. “So, even with these increases, prices are more realistic to where they should be. I think it is still a buyer’s market, but it could change to a seller’s market in a year or two.”

Ellis and Ansley noted that the final quarter of 2012, traditionally the slowest quarter of the year, was a strong quarter. Ansley said that proved to be true not only for Franklin County, but real estate sales in the surrounding counties of Douglas, Johnson and Miami counties.

Ansley said Ottawa should get its fair share of real estate movement in 2013.

“Ottawa has that desirable small-town America atmosphere,” Ansley said.

Citing Ottawa’s inclusion in CNNMoney magazine’s Top 25 places to retire in the U.S., Ansley said she thinks Ottawa’s health care system is poised to be a tremendous asset to retirees looking to spend their golden years in Ottawa — which could bring more seniors to town, looking for homes.

“We have a terrific hospital and general practitioners and specialists,” she said. “We also have a prominent university in Ottawa University, which is growing. And our school system is progressive.

“When you factor in Ottawa’s location, I think all these factors make Ottawa a desirable place to live,” Ansley said.

Local real estate brokers are not the only ones expressing optimism about the housing market. Real estate sales are picking up across the country, according to industry analysts.

Nearly seven years after the housing bubble burst, most indexes of house prices are bending up, the Wall Street Journal reported last summer.

“We finally saw some rising home prices,” S&P’s David Blitzer told the Wall Street Journal last spring as he reported the first monthly increase in the slow-moving S&P/Case-Shiller house-price data after seven months of declines.

The possibility of the Kansas Legislature eliminating the mortgage interest tax deduction could make some buyers skittish, some Realtors said.

Ellis said the real estate industry’s lobbyists are working hard to try and keep that tax deduction intact.

Crown Realty’s Burroughs said the elimination of a tax deduction for interest paid on home mortgages would have an adverse effect on the housing market.

“It would have a tremendous effect on the housing market, if homeowners lost that deduction,” Burroughs said. “I think, if that would happen, homeowners will be shocked. I am definitely opposed to it.”

Burroughs expressed cautious optimism that the tax deduction would remain in place.

“I’ve heard they [state lawmakers] are working on a different proposal, but I haven’t seen anything yet,” he said.

Nevertheless, Ellis said she sees real estate sales picking up momentum in 2013.

“Now that the election is over and we didn’t head over the fiscal cliff, people are looking at properties,” Ellis said. “People are out buying right now.”

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