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Posted on Tue, Jun 15, 2010 : 6:01 a.m.

May home sales data show volume gains and some price stabilization in Washtenaw County

By Paula Gardner

May home and condo sales data for Washtenaw County showed continued impact from the federal home buyer tax credits, local industry experts said as the numbers were released Monday.

Yet the ongoing sales gains coupled with a drop in activity and unabated pressures from foreclosures are leaving many Realtors expressing what they describe as cautious optimism.


A home for sale on Ann Arbor's West Side is seen in this May 2009 file photo. According to the Ann Arbor Area Board of Realtors, 323 homes were sold in May, a 38 percent jump from the year before.

File photo

The data from the Ann Arbor Area Board of Realtors showed:

• Home sales rising 38 percent to 323 units in May over the previous year. • Condo sales rising 53 percent over the same time period. • Monthly dollar volume climbing 9 percent to $60.4 million. • Home listings falling 28 percent to 500 new units coming onto the market, while condo listings rose 4 percent or 5 units, with 126 new listings.

The numbers are enough to keep 2010’s overall market trend outpacing 2009. The year-to-date dollar volume, for example, is up 23 percent at $211.8 million.

June numbers, when they’re released in early July, also are forecast to show market improvement, due to ongoing closings stemming from deals struck by April 30, the deadline for the federal buyers credits.

Most in the industry, however, agree that the pace has slowed.

“It’s certainly slowed down since April 30,” said Bill Flood, an office manager at Edward Surovell Realtors in Ann Arbor. “We have people who are searching in every price range, but they’re pickier now. They don’t feel like they’re in a mad rush (to make the deadline).”

Also affecting the sales pace, he said, is the slowdown in new listings. Buyers in some price ranges feel like they’ve seen the best properties on the market.

“We need good inventory,” Flood said.

Meanwhile, the pace of foreclosures is not slowing, said Susan Fecteau of Tree House Realty Group in Ann Arbor.

“I’m not seeing a slowdown in bank-owned assignments,” she said.

Data from the Washtenaw County Clerk’s office show that monthly sheriff’s deed sales - the foreclosure step when the deed is transferred from the homeowner, who then faced a specific redemption period to reclaim ownership of the home - is up over 2009 totals.

As of May 31, there were 588 sheriff’s deeds recorded in the county, compared to 526 in 2009. The total for May was 125, the highest tracked for that month.

Most of those homes will be put on the market, but the timing could range from a month to a year, depending on when owners leave the property and its condition.

The bank-owned foreclosures, when they hit the market, still tend to be priced less that comparable privately owned homes, Fecteau said. That will keep pressure on home prices.

“There’s still going to be foreclosure bargains,” she said. “Those aren’t going to go away. That’s what’s going to keep the downward pressure.”

The average sale price in May was $186,970, and the median sales price for a home was $157,000. A year earlier those numbers were $236,897 and $161,000. That compares to May 2006 - the year the market showed the early signs of its slowdown - when the average sale price was $270,797 and the median home price was $225,450.

Still, she said that some areas of Ann Arbor are seeing price stabilization.

That’s confirmed by Peter Hendershot of Affinity Valuation Service of Ann Arbor.

Data from May 2009 through May 31 2010 in the submarkets that combine to make the citywide market shows that “the average sales price per square foot is pretty stable across the board,” he said.

Some other communities - like Saline and Dexter - also appear to be stabilizing, based on 12-month sales data.

That indicates that the rapid free-fall in value in the region since 2006 is slowing in some areas.

“Will the trend continue?” Hendershot asked. “We don’t know.”

Paula Gardner is Business News Director of Contact her at 734-623-2586 or by e-mail. Sign up for the weekly Business Review newsletter, distributed every Thursday, here.



Wed, Jun 16, 2010 : 5:23 a.m.

Agreed. As special interest groups go. the NAR is truly at an extreme in terms of being a booster. Their 'Chief Economist' in particular. BTW, it is remarkable how the largest federal bailout of them all, the largest bailout in the history of the world, is happening in stealth mode: your money given to so-called Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Over $1,000,000,000,000 so far. Over one trillion dollars, and likely to go significantly higher, especially if the phenomena known as strategic default continues to grow.

say it plain

Tue, Jun 15, 2010 : 11:51 p.m.

Ah, I'm so enjoying seeing people refusing to buy the, erhm, wishful thinking let's call it, from the real estate people and their booster 'press'!


Tue, Jun 15, 2010 : 9:11 p.m.

Judging by historical patterns, which tend to be fractal in nature, and thus ever so slightly predictable, a good forecast for a bottom in real estate prices is 2016 +/- 1 year. There will be many upward blips along the way. Near the bottom, most will 'know' homes are a bad investment. We are so not there yet...

Atticus F.

Tue, Jun 15, 2010 : 2:57 p.m.

I personally think real estate prices have been over inflated since the mid 80's. I also see the drop in the market as an opportunity for people to purchase a home at a sane price that is not over inflated due to easy credit.


Tue, Jun 15, 2010 : 2:26 p.m.

I suspect this movie is a double-dip feature. Way too many unresolved debt and credit issues out there, both domestically, and internationally, for a basically illiquid asset like real estate to normalize. Many who have purchased homes in the past year or two will probably end-up regretting it. Sovereign debt issues percolating in Europe could easily cross the pond and pay us a visit here, especially if the Chinese get antsy about financing our profligacy. And then there's all this commercial real estate teetering on the brink... So, the second feature is just starting - I think it's called "Dead Cat Bounce", starring Pollyanna, and Rosie Scenario... enjoy!

Top Cat

Tue, Jun 15, 2010 : 1:45 p.m.

Who in their life time can remember driving around and seeing so many single family homes that are empty? I would not believe anything that Realtors or their organization has to say about this situation. Too many houses are empty, too many people are not paying their mortgage and too many are underwater. There is simply too much bad debt out there that needs to be resolved before this market can recover.


Tue, Jun 15, 2010 : 12:02 p.m.

Sales were propped up by tremendous tax credits, and foreclosures show no sign of abating, but there's some price stabilization? I think we need to wait a few months before deciding anything about prices now that the tax credits are over. It's the same thing in autos. Sales are up, up, up! But wait, actually it's mostly fleet sales that are up, and that's in comparison to some of the weakest sales in a generation. Is Michigan a recourse state? Are we experiencing the same phenomenon of people not making their payments, but just waiting to be evicted, that's happening in other states? (See: for example.) We certainly have a high rate of delinquency ( The Mortgage Bankers Association survey found about 11% of Michigan mortgages were more than 90 days delinquent (or already in bankruptcy), and another 5% or so were less than 90 days delinquent. The only real question is whether we manage to eek out a Japan-style growth rate, or head back into a double-dip recession. Still looks like a slow bleed to me. The federal tax credit just gave the sick patient a transfusion. That will make anyone look better for a little while.

5c0++ H4d13y

Tue, Jun 15, 2010 : 10:41 a.m.

Do tax credits really help the market? Did no money down loans help the market? Did interest only loans help the market? Is it good to "roll the dice" with these things? Was it good to flood the market with cash creating the bubble? Is another bucket of cash going to "help"? Seems like the stimulus efforts these days (or any other) is for short term political gain at the expense of long term rational use of money. I'd rather not leave my kids with the bill to pay off.


Tue, Jun 15, 2010 : 9:38 a.m.

There is serious talk in Congress about a new round of tax credits. It definitely helps the real estate market, but can the government afford to reduce their tax revenue again?


Tue, Jun 15, 2010 : 9:09 a.m.

Last year was definitely not the bottom with respect to housing prices. The article even spells that out. This year might be, but it most likely won't bottom till the end of this real estate season (if at all) which looks to be quite sluggish without money from Uncle Sam. Regardless, it will be a buyers' market for some time to come.

Paula Gardner

Tue, Jun 15, 2010 : 6:19 a.m.

Here's a little more comparative info to expand on why Bill Flood says the market is short on "good" listings: In May 2006, 1,257 new residential listings came onto the market; that month 338 sold. In May 2010, the number of new residential listings was 500 - and 323 sold.


Tue, Jun 15, 2010 : 6:15 a.m.

Glad I bought my house last year at the bottom.


Tue, Jun 15, 2010 : 5:51 a.m.

A bit of good news. There will be many upward blips along the way... Evidence suggests we are in the early years of a credit collapse induced deflationary depression. Historically, these events span 10-20 years. Look at the US 1930s and Japan 1990-now for a preview.