November 7, 2002

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Housing market healthy, realtors say

Bambi Williams

Bambi Williams

Dollars and Sense:
The state of the local economy
fourth in a series

Yellow Springs is an excellent place to be a realtor, local realtors agree.

While the nationwide housing market historically experiences valleys and peaks, in Yellow Springs it has remained surprisingly steady and strong through her 40 years as a realtor, according to Jo Dunphy of Dunphy Realty.

“Every year we’ve increased our sales from the day we started,” said Dunphy.

And while some areas of the economy may currently feel jitters, the nationwide housing market has experienced “historic” sales over the past three years, said Dayton Board of Realtors President Bob Altick of Altick Realty in Xenia. The current Yellow Springs market mirrors that success, said Dunphy. Sales at Dunphy Realty, for instance, are up 15 percent over last year, she said.

“I don’t see the effects of the recession,” said Dunphy, noting that some recent buyers have used cash to purchase homes. “The people who want to live in Yellow Springs want to live here. It’s not dependent on the economy.”

A local realtor for almost 30 years, Bambi Williams of Coldwell Banker agrees.

“It’s a very healthy market right now,” she said. “Our market is as stable as anywhere, and overall, demand exceeds supply. People want to be able to walk downtown. They want the trees. We have a unique product and there’s a Yellow Springs wrapper on whatever they buy.”

While some villagers have speculated that there are more houses on the market now than usual, that is not the case, said Williams. Currently, there are about 26 homes on the market in Yellow Springs, a number comparable to last year this time, said Williams.

Those houses range in price from $97,900 to $345,000, and four of the homes are listed at more than $300,000, which is an unusual number of high-priced homes, Williams said.

So far in 2002, 33 houses have been sold, ranging in price from $72,000 to $289,000, she said.

Of those 33 houses, 17 sold at $150,000 or less (three under $100,000) and 14 more sold for prices ranging from $150,000 to $250,000. Five sold for more than $300,000, according to realty records.

In 2001, 31 houses were sold in Yellow Springs, according to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) of the Dayton Area Board of Realtors, at an average price of $142,268, which was a 9.6 percent decrease from the previous year.

The average 2000 sale price for a Yellow Springs home was $157,375, and $152,175 in 1999, according to the MLS.

The drop in prices in 2001 might reflect the temporary slump in the housing market last year that followed the Sept. 11 tragedy, said Williams and Chris Kristensen of Springs Realty. It might also be an anomaly reflecting the sale of a smaller than usual number of more expensive homes, said Altick.

“For a while after September,” said Williams, “people took a deep breath and didn’t do anything.”

But that paralysis seems to have passed, and Williams and Dunphy both reported a robust amount of activity last summer. While Kristensen said Springs Realty experienced a slower summer, sales were brisk in the traditionally inactive months of September and October.

Helping to fuel the healthy housing market is an exceptionally low mortgage rate of 6 percent, said the realtors.

“There’s a larger variety of houses on the market than usual, top to bottom. There’s lots of choices,” said Dunphy.

Houses that sell quickly tend to be “well-priced, good-conditioned houses in every price range,” said Williams. Overall, the most expensive houses take the longest to sell, she said. People wanting to live in Yellow Springs also seek “the pizzazz factor,” she said. “The house needs to have something interesting to set it apart. Most homes here have something special to distinguish them,” Williams said.

About half of the recent homebuyers are current Yellow Springs residents and half are moving in from outside the community, said both Williams and Dunphy. Those who are new to town “fit the profiles of those who already live here,” Williams said. “They’re professionals, academics, artists, former residents.”

But what new Yellow Springs homeowners tend not to be are those in the lower or even middle income range, said two local families that are either looking for homes or who recently purchased one, and who expressed frustration at what they perceive as a small selection of overpriced houses.

One longtime Yellow Springs renter, a professional who recently purchased a home, said he paid far more than he ever imagined he would. While he could afford to buy a house here, he said several of his friends cannot, and he’s witnessed many people moving out of town due to housing prices.

“A lot of the spice that makes this town cool is leaving,” he said.

A local professional couple with two children have been looking informally for a larger home for five years, they said, seeking “a nice old house close to town that’s structurally sound,” preferably not much over $200,000.

What they’ve found so far, they said, are homes that cost $300,000 or those in the $200,000 price range that “need lots of work” and tens of thousands of dollars in repairs.

Still, the couple already own a home in town, so they said they don’t feel constrained by the long wait to purchase their dream house. “We have this hope that it’s going to happen, that the perfect place will come up,” said one of the residents.

Neither family chose to expand their housing search beyond Yellow Springs, they acknowledged, and were willing to accept the wait and the higher prices in order to find that “perfect place” in Yellow Springs.

“I don’t want to live anywhere else,” said one recent buyer.

Compared to other places considered desirable to live, Yellow Springs homes offer good value, said the realtors. According to an article in The New York Times on Monday, Nov. 4, housing prices in many East Coast and West Coast cities have skyrocketed over the past two years, so that the average home price in New York City is $300,000, in Boston, $400,000, and in San Francisco, more than $500,000.

In Yellow Springs, housing prices have appreciated steadily over the last 10 years at an average rate of 4.42 percent a year, to a total appreciation of 45.13 percent since 1992, according to the Multiple Listing Service. The average sale price of a house in Yellow Springs this year, which is $163,059, compares to a Dayton area — which includes Greene, Montgomery and Preble counties — average of about $129,000, said Altick.

“There’s simply a demand for housing in Yellow Springs,” said Altick. “That’s why you have higher prices.”

“I would love for all those who want to live here to be able to afford it,” said Williams. “But to those who say local houses are overpriced, I say Yellow Springs is a bargain. It’s all relative. People are here because they want to live in Yellow Springs.”

—Diane Chiddister