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Posted on Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 12:45 p.m.

Ann Arbor's housing sector 'close to becoming a seller's market,' according to report

By Lizzy Alfs

Despite the continued instability in the national housing market, Ann Arbor is one of the top 10 U.S. cities that are showing signs of recovery, according to a recent report by

Based on the third quarter of 2011, the top 10 “turnaround” cities had lower unemployment rates year-over-year, showed median list price appreciation and lower inventory counts.

The report was compiled based on price appreciation, changes in inventory, median age of inventory, searches by visitors and unemployment data.

Both the state of Michigan and Washtenaw County have experienced the lowest unemployment rates in years. Michigan’s unemployment rate fell to 9.8 percent in November, with Washtenaw County’s at 5.7 percent, the second lowest among Michigan’s 83 counties.

The housing market in Ann Arbor is also improving, according to the report.

Median list prices increased more than 8 percent year-over-year in October. Inventory is also down nearly 25 percent.

"With a 25% reduction in inventory over the past year and time in inventory down to 90 days compared to the national median of 107, Ann Arbor is one of the few markets in the country that is close to becoming a seller's market," according to the report.

According to a recent report by the Ann Arbor Area Board of Realtors, home sale prices in Washtenaw County also continue to increase. The dollar volume of properties sold year-to-date in Washtenaw County is up 2.4 percent over last year.

The average Ann Arbor home sale price was $317,024 in November.

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at


Jill Kipnis

Mon, Dec 19, 2011 : 5:22 p.m.

Thanks for sharing the turnaround town report! released November statistics last week, and Ann Arbor was the No. 67 most searched MSA in the country. The median list price was $159,900, a year-over-year increase of 6.67%. Also, year-over-year inventory counts decreased 24.42%, and the median days on market was 98 days, a 13.27% year-over-year decrease. For more information: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Sat, Dec 17, 2011 : 1:15 p.m.

Ann Arbor &quot;metro&quot; area likely includes surrounding towns...


Sat, Dec 17, 2011 : 2:10 a.m.

The AA Board of Realtors has collected and published home sales data for years. It is not too hard to see trends as they do this monthly. Anyone who does not believe this data needs to apply to Fox News/National Enquirer as a reporter. It is obvious that the U provides a stable base for this economy. At the same time companies like Phizer and Borders have left many unemployed. In other areas of the state this would be a catastrophe, but thanks to the Universities we weathered the storm. This will continue for a long time unless the right wingers have their way with their anti-diversity legislation.


Sat, Dec 17, 2011 : 10:33 p.m.

Do you dream in politics?

Michael Hartwell

Sat, Dec 17, 2011 : 12:25 a.m.

Ms. Alfs needs to do a survey of homeowners, not Realtors.


Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 10:19 p.m.

Forever27 (see reply to salineone) has also sipped the Kool-aid. Anyone who says: &quot;Ann Arbor's stability has nothing to do with the university,&quot; has there head in the sand or their hand in the the U pocket. Take the U out of AA and what do you have. NOTHING!!! How many people has the U ever laid off? How many pay cuts have U employees ever suffered. How many employees outside of the U have their retirement matched $2 to $1 (U contributes 10% to employees 5%). I could go on but Kool-aid drinkers are too far gone.


Sat, Dec 17, 2011 : 9:49 p.m.

Yes, the university is very important to our town. What is your point?


Sat, Dec 17, 2011 : 3:03 p.m.

Wow salineone, you sound very angry about others good fortune in having a stable job at UofM.


Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 8:42 p.m.

In the immortal words of Mark Twain &quot;...lies, damn lies and statistics.&quot; According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (google - Washtenaw unemployment rate): County employment October 2010 = 180,320 County employment October 2011 = 180,629 An increase of 309 jobs over the previous year or + 0.17% change. County unemployment October 2010 = 12,992 County unemployment October 2011 = 10,283 A decrease of 2,709 over the previous year or - 20.8% change. So in reality the total number of jobs increased 17 tenths of one percent while at the same time thousands of the unemployed either gave up looking, retired, etc.. So Washtenaw may have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state but it is not due to a significant surge in new job creation over the last year. These facts are in no way &quot;disparaging&quot;. Anyone who wants to speculate on where home prices are headed based solely on a single statistic &quot;the unemployment rate&quot;, is not looking at the bigger picture.


Sat, Dec 17, 2011 : 12:53 a.m.

&quot;The majority of baby boomers do not have a pension and many do not have adequate retirement savings to retire at 62 (when many decide to take a reduced social security payout) or 65 for that matter.&quot; But many of those that do not have &quot;adequate retirement savings&quot; Do have a new boat , snowmobile and membership at the gym. There are those that could have had more at retirement but they chose their toys over stability!


Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 11:29 p.m.

First of all, I live in the city and there are plenty of &quot;dissenting&quot; voices within the city. Did the missing 2,700 unemployed's all leave the county? Hopefully not as this would mean even more empty homes waiting to be foreclosed upon in 2012. Not exactly an encouraging sign for real estate prices. A decreasing labor market is also not an encouraging sign for real estate prices. Yes, the city has a large amount of public employees with nice pensions, but they are not all going to retire in Ann Arbor. The majority of baby boomers do not have a pension and many do not have adequate retirement savings to retire at 62 (when many decide to take a reduced social security payout) or 65 for that matter. So if the county is possibly losing population and employment is stagnant why should I be excited that Ann Arbor has made yet another best of list? Big deal, so we don't have it quite as bad as other cities, there's no reason to gloat about it.


Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 9:24 p.m.

blahblahblah, you're right, those facts are not disparaging. if anything, they further prove my points that Ann Arbor has had a stable realestate market throughout the crash because we, as a city, have one of the best education systems in the country and we also have more to do for the residents compared to surrounding towns.


Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 9:02 p.m.

&quot; at the same time thousands of the unemployed either gave up looking, retired, etc.&quot; There is another option in there. They could have left the county. The fact is the labor market will continue to decrease. Baby boomers are going to retire. The first wave are there now. If we consider the start of the baby boom to be 1945, that group is 66 right now. They can retire with full SS. Some may continue to work, but many other will say they were looking and no longer want to do that any more. Many may have pensions or spouses who work as well. The unemployment figure can only be determined by those actually looking. This data has pretty accurately reflected what happens in the real estate market historically. I think A2 home prices did not have as steep of a drop as many other communities in southeast Michigan, which is exactly why many people choose to buy in the city (salineone). Some of us choose to live in the city because we prefer being able to get on a bus and go downtown to eat, or head to a museum, see a show, or watch a movie. The options if you live in Saline are limited at best.


Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 8:21 p.m.

I wish this were true, but it's pretty hard to believe; I follow the Observer page for sold houses, and the houses in my top elementary neighborhood have been in a decline for years. Houses that sold this year were down $10,000 to $20,000 from the year before. I know this is one area in a big city, but I also know people in less desirable neighborhoods that have not been able to sell after years off and on the market.


Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 8:11 p.m.

And who wants to live in Ann Arbor? The only people who really want to live in Ann Arbor, have enough money that cost is not their main deciding factor. The writers for Ann need to get out and do some real investigative reporting rather than read what other Kool-aid drinkers are writing. Many of the articles in Ann are just repeating some other news report. As far as unemployment, my son just got laid off after working 13 years for the same company! So much for the employment picture getting better. Many people have just given up looking. U of M drives a large part of the housing, employment and economy in Ann Arbor. They just keep raising tuition, getting large research grants for meaningless research. Sure the economy in AA is getting better. The average Joe is subsidizing the U. Get from behind your desk and stop drinking the Kool-aid!!


Sat, Dec 17, 2011 : 1:13 a.m.

salineone, I'm not sure what your point is.


Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 9:34 p.m.

I'd also like to know what meaningless research you know of. I'm sure much of it seems hard to connect to your every day life, but believe me, it is far from &quot;meaningless.&quot;


Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 9:21 p.m.

clearly the realtors are drinking the same kool-aid. Ann Arbor's stability has nothing to do with the university, or it's world-class public school system that continually ranks among the top in the US.


Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 7:40 p.m.

This uptick in employment and home values must be due to the suffocating anti-business, anti-homeowner environment I'm always hearing about in the comments section of this web site.

Michael K.

Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 7:38 p.m.

It would be worthwhile to take an independent look at the statistics. Realtors in general are marketers who, to me, always seem to be pretty &quot;Pollyanna-ish.&quot; Or, to quote Voltaire: &quot;Everything is for the best, in the best of all possible worlds.&quot; To go from a truly horrible markert, to a true &quot;sellers&quot; market, in one breath, without passing go, sounds at least a bit premature.


Sat, Dec 17, 2011 : 9:43 p.m.

To go from a truly horrible markert, to a true &quot;sellers&quot; market, in one breath, without passing go, sounds at least a bit premature. Michael, I am a local realtor, and that is exactly what happened in 1994-95, and we didn't look back for the next 11 years, until Pfizer left town. Our local market started to suffer over a year before the rest of the country, and we started to come out of it earlier as well. In fact, we have now put together about 19 or 20 months of improvements year to year, but the difference right now is that we are short on inventory. It's a great time to buy because of historic interest rates and we hit the bottom a long time ago. Prices will not be lower any time soon.


Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 9:19 p.m.

@aamom, i was fortunate to find myself in the position i was at that time. This is my first home, so i was far from an old hat at this. I realize that the prices haven't been exactly stable for all of ann arbor. The location within the town matters still, too. I guess that my overall point was that, for the overall climate, ann arbor has been pretty stable throughout the tumultuous years.


Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 9:01 p.m.

@forever You're lucky you bought in 2008. I bought in 2005 right before all the prices began their slide down. While I'm happy that prices are going up, prices still have to go up about $150,000 more before I'll get back to breaking even. Such is life. I'm just glad that I can easily afford my house and have a stable job. I guess my point is that viewed through the eyes of a 2008 buyer, this market probably does look pretty good.


Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 7:47 p.m.

to provide a little perspective on the market in ann arbor: I bought a house in 2008. During my search, we put offers in on seven houses before we landed our current home. Of those 7 offers, we offered over the asking price on 4 of them, only to be further out-bid. The house next to the one we bought (almost identical houses) sold 2 months after we bought ours (for about $200,000) for $20,000 more - as a cash sale. The housing market in Ann Arbor has been relatively stable throughout the crises (a huge reason I decided to purchase here as opposed to the surrounding towns). So this article is a little misleading in that we are not really &quot;turning around&quot; all that much because we were relatively isolated from the problem to begin with.


Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 6:55 p.m.

Q: Where are all the people who are usually on this page with their nonstop disparaging remarks for Ann Arbor? A: At their homes in the surrounding towns that are not worth what they paid for them.


Sat, Dec 17, 2011 : 10:59 a.m.

Boutique shopping yes, supermarket and neccessities shopping no.

Peter Baker

Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 11:17 p.m.

You also get a walkable commute, close amenities, great parks, restaurants, bars and shopping all within blocks of where you hang your hat. Nothing smug about it, it's really nice living close to where you do everything.


Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 8:10 p.m.

You just get a lot less house for your money in Ann Arbor. You are paying for a name and some feel superior being able to say &quot;I live in Ann Arbor&quot;. Remember those obnoxious bumper stickers a while back. All this said by someone who was born and educated in Ann Arbor.


Fri, Dec 16, 2011 : 6:16 p.m.

This makes sense to me. We just sold our house and had 3 competing bids in less than two weeks (in the Fall no less)! We got more than we paid for it just a few years ago. It definitely seemed to be a sellers market for houses that are kept up and in a nice a location.


Sat, Dec 17, 2011 : 2:01 a.m.

I think if you are selling a home in what people consider the most desirable location anywhere, you, as a seller, have an advantage. Until it is a &quot;seller's market&quot; for the entire market, it is not a &quot;seller's market&quot;.