Bad weather and a shortage of houses on the market took a toll on home sales in February. In central Ohio, 1,444 homes changed hands during the month, 6.2 percent less than during last February.
Bad weather and a shortage of houses on the market took a toll on home sales in February.
In central Ohio, 1,444 homes changed hands during the month, 6.2 percent less than during last February.
Statewide, sales slipped 4.3 percent from a year ago, and sales nationwide fell 7.1 percent from last February.
Officials attributed the decline, which followed a similar drop in January, to unusually cold weather and a lack of homes for sale.
“Inventory is still down in central Ohio, which is hindering the potential of our already strong housing market,” said Milt Lustnauer, president of the Columbus Realtors trade group. “Given the low inventory and abysmal weather, we’re only a few steps behind what turned out to be a record-breaking year last year.”
As of the end of the month, 8,066 homes were for sale in central Ohio, less than half the number for sale six years ago and the lowest number since 2000.
Experts speculate that homeowners aren’t putting their houses on the market for several reasons, including a fear that the home won’t fetch as much money as they want, which is a deal-killer if they owe more than their home is worth. Others may think the market, which has been recovering for two years, still favors buyers.
“Maybe some sellers are still picking up that it’s a buyers’ market, because it turned so fast,” said Jo-Anne LaBuda, a Keller Williams agent in Worthington.
Then there are homeowners who simply made a decision during the recession to not move.
“I think a lot of people who have been buyers, my age, baby boomers, they don’t have to sell, they got used to, well, ‘We wouldn’t get what we wanted, so we’ll just stay put,’” LaBuda said.
LaBuda and Lustnauer said the exceptional weather also kept some sellers out of the market.
“Many sellers were waiting out one of the worst winters on record,” Lustnauer said. “Now that the weather is warming up, we hope to see inventory levels jump back up.”
The good news for sellers: The lack of competition is driving up prices of the homes that are for sale.
The median sales price of a central Ohio home in February was $135,000, 10.4 percent higher than a year earlier. Sales prices throughout the state rose 4 percent from a year ago and were up 9.1 percent nationally.
The average house took slightly longer to sell in February (101 days) compared with last February (95 days).
The rise in prices suggests that demand remains strong, despite the drop in sales.
In one area, however, demand remains weak. First-time homebuyers are still shying away from the market, accounting for 28 percent of purchases in February, down from 30 percent last February and well below the traditional 40 percent.
Steve Brown, a Dayton real-estate agent who is president of the National Association of Realtors, attributed the lack of activity among first-time buyers to high student debt and tight mortgage guidelines.
Lawrence Yun, chief economist with the association, said he expects sales to improve with the weather.
“Some transactions are simply being delayed, so there should be some improvement in the months ahead,” Yun said in a news release. “With an expected pickup in job creation, home sales should trend up modestly over the course of the year.”