As with many things in life, the robustness of the housing market depends on where you’re standing.
“It’s been a seller’s market here since 2014,” said Peter Novak Jr., CEO of the Merrillville-based Greater Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors, which represents Jasper, Lake, LaPorte, Newton, Porter, Pulaski and Starke counties.
“We have had an influx of people,” he said, adding, “we have been having migration from Illinois for a long time.”
That trend toward a shortage of inventory versus increased demand for homes in the Hoosier state has resulted in higher prices, Novak said.
According to GNIAR’s local market update, the year-to-date new listings of available housing units from December 2017 through December 2018 dropped 2.7 percent from 14,426 listings to 14,035. On the other hand, sales of homes that closed rose 1.6 percent from 10,683 to 10,849.
In addition, those statistics show that the median sales price increased 6.5 percent over the same period, from $154,900 in December 2017 to $165,000 in December 2018. And the average sales price for that same period jumped 7 percent from $172,979 to $185,020.
By comparison, statistics from the Springfield-based Illinois Realtors indicate the Chicago Metro Area saw a 16.5 percent decline in monthly closed sales of housing units – from 8,217 to 6,865 – from December 2017 to December 2018. The Chicago Metro Area includes Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will counties in Illinois.
“Year-over-year, we’ve had a fairly steep decline (in home prices) after three years of increases in prices in the Chicago Metro area,” said Jon Broadbanks, vice president of communications for Illinois Realtors, citing the latest figures from January 2018 through January 2019 released on Feb. 21. Those statistics also reflect a steep 22.9 percent decline in closed sales year to year.
Will County experienced even deeper declines with a 29.5 percent dip in closed sales during that period, while Cook County closed sales declined 20.9 percent.
In the Land of Lincoln, the median sales price for single-family homes and condos remained at $225,000 in that year-to-year comparison.
That price comparison between $165,000 in Indiana and $225,000 in Illinois highlights one of the reasons for increased migration to Indiana, said Jessica Kish, a Realtor with Berkshire-Hathaway Executive Realty in Schererville.
“I’m working with five clients right now who are moving from Illinois. They can afford much more house here,” Kish said.
Property taxes and sales taxes also differ greatly in Indiana and Illinois, Novak and Kish noted.
“We live in an area with 3 percent property tax caps,” Novak said. “Our sales taxes on everything are less than Illinois. Our cost of living is much lower.”
“I’m working with one couple from Chicago looking at homes in Valparaiso,” Kish said. “For a 3,000-square foot home in Valparaiso, they will pay $3,000 a year in property taxes. Their 1,000-square foot condo in Chicago has property taxes of over $10,000 a year.”
This couple also wants to have a backyard and a place that their children and grandchildren can enjoy, she said.
Baby Boomers and millennials alike are opting for a change of scenery and finding it in Northwest Indiana, Novak and Kish said.
“A lot of people, Baby Boomers, are down-sizing. Paired villas are especially popular,” Kish said. “They still feel they are part of a neighborhood, and they now have someone to mow their lawn.”
That downsizing “is opening the door for younger families with single-family homes. There are so many options. It’s a matter of finding our niche,” she said.
“For a long time, we were told that millennials prefer urban settings, but millennials are getting older,” Novak said, adding that the suburban areas are drawing this age group back.
For some, safety has also become a major concern, Kish said.
“Of the 10 safest places to live in Indiana, Northwest Indiana has five of them – Highland, Munster, Schererville, St. John and Dyer,” she said. “The schools are great here, too.”
“And now we have a national park,” Novak said. “Those amenities are attracting people.”
Proximity to Chicago and its many attractions also makes Northwest Indiana an attractive place to live, Novak and Kish said.
Novak said the expressways and Indiana Toll Road provide easy access to the Chicago area.
“You can still get to the Cubs games, to the museums,” Kish said. “We are so close to Chicago, people don’t feel they’re moving to another country.”