The Ottumwa Courier

January 23, 2014

Real estate market creating sense of optimism

By JOSH VARDAMAN
Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — If recent years are any indication, home buyers around the country are feeling generally more optimistic about purchasing homes than they were during the recent recession, and that sentiment has been echoed in southeastern Iowa.

According to Les Thostenson, Broker at Prestige Midwest Realtors in Ottumwa, there is “generally a feeling of optimism” right now in the real estate market. He points to several factors to explain why people are feeling strongly about the market, but the main reason is that the economy is getting stronger.

“We feel that people are feeling better about buying cars and homes with the economy getting stronger,” he said.

When the strengthened economy gets paired with the increased number of first-time home buyers and bigger inventory of homes to choose from, according to Thostenson, it causes a sense of optimism.

The numbers in Wapello and Davis counties from the past few years have shown that the feeling of optimism is rightly felt, and there has indeed been a rebound for the real estate market in the area.

According to Multiple Listing Services (MLS) statistics, where the real estate statistics are placed for most major firms, the market took a hit during the recession of 2008, but since 2010 it has been on the rebound. Wapello and Davis counties are usually grouped together in the MLS statistics because of their close proximity to one another, according to Thostenson.

The numbers from 2013 showed that it was a very strong year for the real estate market, at least in Wapello and Davis counties. While the number of residential transactions that were closed was 366, down from 403 in 2012, the average price for a purchased home was $98,829. To put that number into perspective, the next highest yearly average price paid for a home since 2001 was in 2010, at $95,922.

Although the number of transactions are not as high as they were before the recession, such as in 2005 when there were 516, the high number of average sale price points to a very strong year in 2013.

So, what does that mean? Basically, according to Thostenson, the rebound of the economy and several other factors have led to a rebound in the real estate market, and home buyers are more willing to pay for more expensive homes as well as homes in the lower-end market.

That willingness to pay top dollar for a home has created a sense of optimism around the real estate market, and made 2013 a year to remember for those in the business.

Generally, Thostenson said, there is a dip in activity during the late summer and early fall most years, but last year the market stayed strong.

“Typically things slow down in August and September, but we didn’t see that last year,” he said. “The market was strong throughout 2013.”

Thostenson also said that he expects the feeling of optimism in the real estate market to keep going through 2014, and that when the sales of homes stay strong, other industries, like furniture makers, are positively affected as a result.

“There’s a more favorable feeling where the market is at,” he said. “If home building and sales stay strong, it leads to a strong feeling in other industries also. There are challenges, but we learn to work through them.”

It appears that the sting of the 2008 recession has finally healed, at least in the real estate market in southeastern Iowa, and most experts in the area have a feeling of optimism going into the future.

— To see reporter Josh Vardaman's Twitter feed, go to @CourierJosh