Northwest Indiana single-family existing home sales picked up in January where they left off at the end of last year, notching a strong 25.3 percent gain as compared to the year-ago-month, according to the Greater Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors.
Median selling prices also were up sharply, notching a 17.6 percent gain in January as compared to one year ago, according to sales figures from the association.
It is both buyers and sellers who are creating a positive climate for home sales now, according to Minakshi Ghuman, a Realtor with Century 21 Pace Realty in Valparaiso. Buyers still are hunting for good prices and taking advantage of low interest rates, while those owning homes are deciding it's finally time to test the market.
"Even people with fairly expensive homes are asking: "Is it time to list my home?'" she said.
Nationally, single-family home sales increased 8.5 percent in January as compared to January 2012, according to the National Association of Realtors. The median selling price moved up to $174,100 in January, an increase of 12.6 percent.
The housing market has now transitioned from a buyer's market to a seller's market in many areas of the nation, according to Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors.
"Buyer traffic is continuing to pick up, while seller traffic is holding steady," Yun said. "In fact, buyer traffic is 40 percent above a year ago, so there is plenty of demand but insufficient inventory to improve sales more strongly."
Another factor driving home sales may be the new rates for mortgage insurance to be implemented by the Federal Housing Administration this spring, Ghuman said. All FHA-backed loans will be subject to a 10 basis points increase in premiums starting in April, which could add hundreds of dollars annually for some home buyers.
In addition to the current low interest rates, that is giving buyers one more reason to purchase now, she said.
For the week ending Feb. 14, the interest rate on a 30-year-fixed mortgage averaged 3.53 percent, according to federally-backed mortgage bundler Freddie Mac.
In Porter County in January, 102 home sales were closed as compared to 89 in January 2012, for a 14.6 percent increase, according to the Greater Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors. The median selling price increased 6.6 percent.
In Lake County, 310 homes were sold in January, as compared to 246 in January 2012, for a 26 percent increase. The median selling price increased 23.6 percent.
The Greater Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors collects data on home sales in Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Newton and Jasper counties.