By Tim Krohn
---- — MANKATO — Housing sales in south-central Minnesota last year increased by more than double the statewide average.
There were 1,850 existing homes sold in 2013, compared to 1,670 the year before.
That nearly 11 percent increase was far ahead of the 4.6 percent growth seen statewide and outpaced all other regions, such as the Rochester area, which saw a 4.7 percent increase, and the Twin Cities, which had a nearly 9 percent increase.
The median selling price, which is the midway point of all houses sold, rose nearly 8 percent in 2013 to $132,500.
The average number of days a home was on the market before selling dropped from 156 in 2012 to 142 days in 2013.
Still, the good news was offset by housing sales declines in most of the smaller communities in the 10 counties covered by the Realtors Association of Southern Minnesota — an area that stretches from Le Sueur County to Jackson County and Redwood County to Faribault County.
"Mankato had a great year last year, but the smaller rural communities didn't do so well," said Deb Richmond-Johnson, president of the association. She noted that in her area of Lake Crystal, and in many other smaller towns, sales were down in 2013.
"Mankato maybe had 30 percent or more growth with the rest mostly down."
Richmond-Johnson believes a couple of things have slowed sales farther from Mankato. While home values in many smaller communities were traditionally significantly lower than in Mankato, those prices have moved up. "You used to get a lot more house for the money, but I think they've caught up more."
And she said higher gas prices mean more people are reluctant to buy farther out if they commute to Mankato.
Still, she said towns such as Lake Crystal offer good schools and amenities such as their recreation center and lakes.
"I think it's going to be a better year, the economy is turning around, and interest rates are incredibly good and there are good deals out there."
She said there remains a shortage of homes for sale valued at $100,000 to $150,000. "It's almost nonexistent right now. They're either lower than that or in the upper $200,000 or above."
Statewide, 77,820 residential properties sold in 2013,according to the Minnesota Association of Realtors.
The median sales price for all homes sold in the state was $170,000, a 13 percent increase over 2012.
The number of homes sold in the 13-county metro area rose 8.8 percent during 2013.