Home sales in Northwest Indiana powered upward for the 17th straight month in November, putting them on track for their best performance since the onset of the housing crisis in 2008.
Single-family existing home sales increased 29.5 percent in the region in November as compared to the year-ago month, according to sales figures from the Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors. It was the second-largest increase of the year.
The improving economy, record low interest rates and even the weather have combined to boost home sales, according to Matt Evans, a Realtor with Re/Max Affiliates, of Valparaiso.
"The lack of snow lets people go out and look at homes in the evening, rather than scratching away at clearing the driveway at night," Evans said.
The market is also getting a boost from a return of buyers in higher price brackets, Evans said. Contributing to that movement are buyers who took advantage of generous first-time home buyer tax credits just a few years ago. Many of them already are looking to move into something a little larger and better, Evans said.
Nationally, single-family home sale in November rose 12.4 percent as compared to November 2011, according to the National Association of Realtors. The median sales price of $180,600 was 10.1 higher than one year ago.
"Momentum continues to build in the housing market from growing jobs and a bursting out of household formation," said National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.
The average interest rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to a record low 3.35 percent in November from 3.38 percent in October, according to Freddie Mac's weekly mortgage survey. The rate was 3.99 percent in November 2011.
The 7,323 homes sold through November in Northwest Indiana is better than the tally for the entire year of 2011, when 6,925 homes were sold. Region home sales are now on track for their best performance since 2008, when home sales crashed nationwide with the onset of the housing crisis.
Annual home sales have not increased in the region since the pre-housing crash year of 2006, when 11,349 homes were sold, according to Greater Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors sales figures.
In Porter County in November 148 homes were sold, an increase of 49.5 percent from November 2011 sales of 99 homes, according to the Greater Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors. The median sales price of $160,000 in Porter County represented a 1.6 percent increase from last year.
In Lake County last month, 395 homes were sold, marking a 25 percent increase from November 2011 sales of 316 homes. The Lake County the median sales price of $119,500 was 7 percent lower than the median sales price one year ago.
The Greater Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors covers home sales in Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Newton and Jasper counties.
Gary airport expansion gets on track
The Gary/Chicago International Airport project got on track in 2012, with railroad bridges built, a vehicle overpass going up, and land graded and prepared for the 1,900 foot runway extension.
But all that progress came with a price, with the airport authority learning early in the year the project's cost had risen by another $13 million to a total cost of $166 million.
Facing a funding gap, the airport authority in August issued a plea to the Federal Aviation Administration for $24 million more in support. But airport officials now say with or without the FAA money they can get the job done, using borrowed money if necessary.
NWI, state casino revenues lag
As other sectors of the economy began to recover from the recession, the gaming industry in Indiana just could not get its mojo back in 2012.
In eight out of the first 11 months of 2012, Northwest Indiana's casinos experienced year-over-year loses in their total take, according to revenue reports from the Indiana Gaming Commission. Casino revenues have been down statewide as well.
Casino operators are blaming an economy that still has consumers worried and increasing competition from neighboring states for the weak performance.