By Tim Krohn
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — Tom Browne calls it the end “of a long dry spell.”
Rich Draheim said “it’s fun again.”
The Mankato Realtors say the first quarter of the year has seen a market that’s finally shaken off the recession, with home sales up nearly 60 percent in Nicollet County and 30 percent in Blue Earth County.
“It’s not a land rush, but it certainly turned the corner,” said Browne, of Midwest Realty.
Draheim, of Weichert Realtors and president of the Realtors Association of Southern Minnesota, said the sales prices have also risen by around 10 percent compared to the same time last year.
“For the average person, their wealth is tied up in their house. So to have values come up some, 8 to 10 percent, that’s good news.”
Browne said the stronger sales have created a problem with housing stock on the market. “The supply is definitely down. The inventory’s down 6 percent from last year.”
Draheim said many people in mid-range homes are choosing not to move up, but to move laterally, leaving a shortage of homes in the $200,000 to $300,000 range.
“You have more people who are maybe retiring who used to move up or maybe buy on the lake, they’re moving laterally now.”
That shortage of inventory and willing buyers has led to a phenomena not seen in a few years, Draheim said. “All the agents I talk to are getting multiple offers on homes, two, three, four offers.”
The stronger demand he said is fueled by low interest rates, consumers more confident about the economy and partly by some home buyers who took advantage of a federal program three years ago.
The first-time home buyer tax credit subsidized first-time home buyers, who had to live in the house for at least three years to qualify.
“A lot of people took advantage of that credit and their three years are up so they’re buying better houses,” Draheim said.
Homes priced at $300,000 and above remain a tough sell, said both men.
But there are glimmers of hope.
“We showed a million dollar house the other day. I haven’t shown a million dollar house for a long time,” Draheim said.