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Sales of existing homes in Northwest Indiana were down significantly in February from the same month a year ago, dropping 10 percent to 531, according to the Greater Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors.

The median sale price in February was $134,500, down 2 percent from a year ago, in the seven county area represented by GNIAR.

The drop follows a long period of growing sales and increasing prices.

"It was bound to happen," GNIAR CEO Peter Novak said.

With a tight inventory of homes for sale and prices rising, a down month was likely at some point.

"This is just buyers finally responding," he said.

Novak said it's not clear whether the February numbers are an indication of a longer-term market correction.

"It's one month's worth of data, so you're not able to tell off of that," he said.

For the first two months of 2017 combined, sales are down 3.4 percent, to 1,149, while the median price is up 1.1 percent, to $140,000.

Declining inventory continues to be the main concern, though for sellers it's proved valuable.

"If it's a good home and it's priced decently, it's gone," Novak said GNIAR member Realtors tell him.

Lake County saw the largest decline in sales in February, 16.9 percent to 291. The median price in the area's largest county was down 5.7 percent, to $131,500.

Porter County's sales decline was negligible, down only one home from a year ago to 118. And its median price rose to $181,450.

LaPorte County was down 9.3 percent to 68. It also saw a median sale price increase of 10.3 percent, to $107,000.

Sales nationally continued their year-over-year advance, growing 5.4 percent to 5.48 million, with a median price increase of 7.7 percent to $228,400, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Sales were down from January, though, and the NAR's chief economist, Lawrence Yun, said low inventory and the resulting price increases continue to be a concern nationally.

"Realtors are reporting stronger foot traffic from a year ago, but low supply in the affordable price range continues to be the pest that's pushing up price growth and pressuring the budgets of prospective buyers," he said in a news release announcing the February numbers. 

The NAR's quarterly Housing Opportunities and Market Experience survey, published last week, showed an increase in consumer confidence in the economy as compared to the last quarter of 2016 and as compared to a year ago, and it showed most households believe now is a good time to buy or sell a home.

But that did not hold true for renters. The survey showed a decline in the percentage of rental households believing it's a good time to buy.

Rates for a conventional 30-year fixed-rate mortgage were 4.17 percent in February, up from 4.15 percent in January, according to Freddie Mac. The average rate in 2016 was 3.65 percent.


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.