ST. JOSEPH, MI ? ?Since February, we have seen average and median selling prices climb month over month.In July, the average selling price dropped 6 percent and the median selling price dropped 10 percent below selling prices in June.? The number of houses sold was nearly the same; in July 344 and in June 342 houses were sold. Historically, the market has seen the number of homes sold in July dip but the selling prices remain nearly the same,? stated Gary Walter, EVP, of the Southwestern Michigan Association of REALTORS?, Inc.

?Comparing to July 2014, the number of houses sold in July 2015 increased 18 percent (344 vs. 291).? Year-to-date, the number of houses sold has increased 11 percent over last year (1784 vs. 1606).? The number of houses sold in July this year equaled that sold in 2006 which was the peak year in our market. Year-to-date, we are the second best year for the number of houses sold,? said Walter.

Walter continued, ?The increase in the number houses sold resulted in the total dollar volume increasing by 12 percent over last year ($65,536,372 vs. $58,279,404).? Year-to-date, the total dollar volume was up 11 percent.? Looking back over time at just total dollar volume in the month of July, the amount for July 2015 was the highest recorded since 2006.?

Comparing July 2015 average selling price to July 2014 there was a 5 percent decline ($190,513 vs. $200,273).? Year-to-date, the average selling price was within $223 ($188,814 vs. $188,591).?

The median selling price fell $9,250 in July 2015 ($135,000) versus July 2014 ($144,250).? The stronger selling prices earlier in the year kept the year-to-date median selling price 2 percent higher than last year ($131,000 vs. $128,950).? The year-to-date median price in July was the highest recorded since the peak market year, 2006.

The median price is the price at which 50% of the homes sold were above that price and 50% were below.

?In July, the number of bank-owned or foreclosed homes as a part of all closed transactions in our market set a record low for the year at 9 percent. There were only 32 homes that were bank-owned or foreclosed out of 344 transactions. This was especially noteworthy when you consider the transactions occurred in nearly a three county area.? We have come a long way from February 2009 when 75 percent of all transactions involved bank-owned or foreclosed homes,? stated Walter.?

Locally, the mortgage rate held even with the June rate of 4.18.? In July the mortgage rate was 4.19.? Nationally, the Freddie Mac mortgage rate in July increase to 4.05 from 3.98 for a 30-year conventional mortgage. ?

According to the National Association of Realtors?, existing-home sales steadily increased for the third consecutive month in July, while stubbornly low inventory levels and rising prices are likely to blame for sales to first-time buyers falling to their lowest share since January

Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, increased 2.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.59 million in July from a downwardly revised 5.48 million in June. Sales in July remained at the highest pace since February 2007 (5.79 million), have now increased year-over-year for ten consecutive months and are 10.3 percent above a year ago (5.07 million).

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says the increase in sales in July solidifies what has been an impressive growth in activity during this year's peak buying season. ??The creation of jobs added at a steady clip and the prospect of higher mortgage rates and home prices down the road is encouraging more households to buy now,? he said. ??As a result, current homeowners are using their increasing housing equity towards the down payment on their next purchase.?

The national median existing-home price for all housing types inJuly was $234,000, which is 5.6 percent above July 2014. July's price increase marks the 41st consecutive month of year-over-year gains.

?Despite the strong growth in sales since this spring, declining affordability could begin to slowly dampen demand,? adds Yun. ?Realtors? in some markets reported slower foot traffic in July in part because of low inventory and concerns about the continued rise in home prices without commensurate income gains.?

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Midwest sales were at an annual rate of 1.32 million in July, unchanged from June and 10.9 percent above July 2014. The median price in the Midwest was $186,500, up 6.6 percent from a year ago.

The percent share of first-time buyers declined in July for the second consecutive month, falling from 30 percent in June to 28 percent ? the lowest share since January of this year (also 28 percent). A year ago, first-time buyers represented 29 percent of all buyers.

?The fact that first-time buyers represented a lower share of the market compared to a year ago even though sales are considerably higher is indicative of the challenges many young adults continue to face,? adds Yun. ?Rising rents and flat wage growth make it difficult for many to save for a down payment, and the dearth of supply in affordable price ranges is limiting their options.?

All-cash sales increased slightly to 23 percent of transactions in July (22 percent in June) but are down from 29 percent a year ago. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 13 percent of homes in July, up from 12 percent in June but down from 16 percent in July 2014. Sixty-four percent of investors paid cash in July.

NAR President Chris Polychron, executive broker with 1st Choice Realty in Hot Springs, Ark., says the housing market is in a much better place and has come a long way since the depths of the recession. "Five years ago, distressed sales represented 33 percent of the market in July," he said. "For many previously distressed homeowners throughout the country, rising home values in recent years have helped recover equity and the vast improvement in several local job markets means fewer are falling behind on their mortgage payments."

Nationally, the total housing inventory at the end of July declined 0.4 percent to 2.24 million existing homes available for sale, and is now 4.7 percent lower than a year ago (2.35 million). Unsold inventory is at a 4.8-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 4.9 months in June.

The numbers reported for local sales include residential property in Berrien, and the western half of Van Buren and Cass counties.? All three counties are included in numbers and percentages and do not reflect differences in any individual areas.


The Southwestern Michigan Association of REALTORS?, Inc. is a professional trade association for real estate licensees and ancillary service providers for the real estate industry in Van Buren, Berrien and Cass counties.? The Association is located at 3123 Lake Shore Drive St. Joseph, MI 49085. The Association phone number is (269) 983.6375.? They can also be contacted through their web site, www.swmar.com.

The National Association of Realtors?, ?The Voice for Real Estate,? is America?s largest trade association, representing more than 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.