122117-biz-homesales

A townhome for sale in Crown Point. Northwest Indiana saw a decline in home sales in November, as compared to a year ago, but 2017 remained ahead of 2016 through 11 months.

Andrew Steele, The Times

Home sales in Northwest Indiana entered the final month of the year nearly level with 2016's first 11 months, while the median sale price continued to advance significantly.

Sales of existing homes in November totaled 830, down 3.8 percent from last November's 863, according to figures from the Greater Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors. For the year through November, sales are up 1.6 percent to 9,909.

The median sale price was $155,000, up 8.4 percent from November 2016's $143,000. For the year to date, the median price of $154,500 is up 6.6 percent from the first 11 months of 2016.

GNIAR CEO Peter Novak said 2017 is shaping up to be very similar to 2016.

The inventory of homes for sale is down sharply — off 12.3 percent from a year ago, to 3,585 homes on the market.

"It's been more of the same," Novak said. "Pretty high demand, increasing prices and fairly flat sales."

The GNIAR area covers Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Newton, Jasper, Starke and Pulaski counties.

Lake County sales were down 0.4 percent in November, to 483, with a median price of $154,900, which is up 12.2 percent. Porter County saw a decline in both, with sales dropping 6 percent to 173 and the median price dropping 2 percent to $174,000. LaPorte County saw sales down 2.8 percent, to 104, and its median price up 18.5 percent, to $142,250.

Nationally, sales were up 3.8 percent to 5.81 million in November, the highest level since December, 2006, when 6.42 million homes were sold, according to the National Association of Realtors.

"Faster economic growth in recent quarters, the booming stock market and continuous job gains are fueling substantial demand for buying a home as 2017 comes to an end," NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said.

The inventory of homes for sale nationally is down 7.2 percent from a year ago, to 1.67 million. The median price nationally was $248,000, up 5.8 percent from a year ago and marking the 69th straight month of year-over-year increases.

Those facts, along with the anticipation of higher mortgage rates next year, threaten affordability, Yun said. Growing homebuilder optimism — if it translates to new construction — would help moderate prices.

"Price appreciation is too fast in a lot of markets right now," Yun said. "The increase in homebuilder optimism must translate to significantly more new construction in 2018 to help ease these acute inventory shortages.”

The NAR's monthly report also noted:

  • First-time buyers accounted for 29 percent of sales in November, down from 32 percent a year ago.
  • All-cash sales were 22 percent of transactions, up from 21 percent a year ago.
  • Homes were on the market an average of 40 days, down from 43 a year ago.
  • Freddie Mac reported an average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional fixed-rate mortage rose to 3.92 percent from 3.9 percent in October.
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Transportation reporter

Andrew covers transportation, real estate, casinos and other topics for The Times business section. A Crown Point native, he joined The Times in 2014, and has more than 15 years experience as a reporter and editor at Region newspapers.