The real estate market was good for several area real estate agents during 2018, but will the real estate market continue to thrive in 2019?
“The market always has highs and lows; it’s always a roller coaster ride,” said Cindy Le-Mon, a RE/MAX agent active in and around Portage County. “I kind of felt like we would have made an adjustment before now. I’m really surprised by the long run we’ve had with a really good market.”
According to MLS data, Portage County had a better year by several measures than in 2017 and fared reasonably well compared with neighboring counties.
The county’s volume sales in 2018 were 9.3 percent higher than in 2017, which was the second largest percentage increase among a group including Summit, Cuyahoga, Trumbull, Mahoning, Stark and Geauga counties, according to MLS data.
New home sales surged from 201 in 2017 to 257 in 2018, according to MLS numbers. Much of that growth in new housing over the past two years has been in the Aurora City School district where 121 new homes were sold in 2017 and 109 in 2018.
Cindy Mustafa, who leads the Mustafa team with Keller Willams Chervenic Realty, said Aurora has several new neighborhoods, including Beljon Farms, Hawthorn of Aurora and more.
She said the overall market felt like it hit a high-water mark both locally and nationally in 2018.
“2018 was a peak year,” she said. “Everyone is looking at a softening of the market.”
Leah Babb, a real estate agent with Keller Williams, said she believes the market is “kind of leveling out a bit” after years of growth.
Babb and Mustafa both said they experienced an extremely short time on the market in 2018.
“I had two listings over the summer, one in Peninsula and one in Firestone Park in Akron, and they went in a couple weeks,” said Babb.
Mustafa said some of the houses she sold spent virtually no time on the market.
“A lot of houses didn’t make it because they went live on Friday and were under contract by Sunday,” she said.
Things seem to be changing now, though.
“Now, starting in November and December, I’ve noticed there are price drops; there are more open houses,” she said, meaning more houses are staying on the market a bit longer.
MLS data bears out Mustafa and Babb’s observations: From 2017 to 2018, there was a 13.4 percent drop in the average length of time properties stayed on the market, from 82 days in 2017 to 71 days in 2018.
That lack of available housing seemed to push some buyers to purchase vacant land in rural areas, added Le-Mon.
“There wasn’t a lot of inventory on the market, so a lot of consumers could not find the home to fit their needs, so they decided, ‘OK. We’re going to have to build it,’” she said.
She said a significant portion of those property buyers were older couples looking for single-story ranch homes where they can comfortably live out their golden years.
Adam Rubin, vice president of mortgage lending for Portage Community Bank, said 2017 was a record year for mortgage lending for the bank, and there were four more mortgages approved in 2018 than in 2017.
He said 2019 should be a good year for real estate, just not a record-setter “as long as interest rates don’t skyrocket.”
“Everything I’m hearing is that interest rates should be flat or have modest increases,” he said. “Right now, the biggest issue seems to be the lack of houses for sale more so than the large economy driving sales.”
Rubin also said first-time homebuyers should look into Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac programs, through which they can get loans with 3 percent down payments sometimes at better rates than homebuyers who make 20 percent down payments.