269.983.6375info@swmar.org

Our housing market has been robust since 2016 and 2017 when both year-end numbers of houses sold broke records, along with total dollar volume and average and median selling prices. The previous peak year was 2006 and is used as the start of our year-over-year comparison. 

At the end of 2017, the number of houses sold peaked at 3733. With the declining inventory of houses available for sale, the number of homes sold at the end of each year dropped to 3,591 in 2018 and 3607 in 2019, which is a difference of 16 houses. Both years mirrored each other with six months (May - October) having over 300 houses sold each month.

The end of the year average and median selling prices set record prices each year, starting in 2016 through 2018. Then, 2019 ended with prices increasing even higher. The year-to-date average selling price in 2019 was $240,525 compared to $233,748 in 2018. The year-to-date median selling price in 2019 was $179,000 compared to $165,000 in 2018. 

Consequentially, the end of the year total dollar volume set records each year. In 2019, the end of the year total dollar volume at $867,817,204 was 3 percent higher than the volume set in 2018 of $ 839,392,514. 

Looking at just results in December 2019 and comparing it to December 2018, home sales were down 6 percent in December 2019 (254 vs. 269).

The average selling price increased 8 percent to $252,183 from $234,139 in December 2018. The median selling price rose 7 percent to $ 176,000 from $163,900 in December 2018. Both selling prices set new records for December in the year-over-year comparison.

The increase in selling prices pushed the total dollar volume up 2 percent from December 2018, while fewer houses were sold ($64,054,495 vs. $62,983,647). The total dollar volume also set a new record.

The median price is the price at which 50% of the homes sold were above that price, and 50% were below.

The inventory of houses for sale dropped 9 percent below that in December 2018 (1176 vs. 1295). At 1176 houses, the market had a 4.7-months supply of homes for sale compared to 5.8 in November. In December 2011, the market had a 12.7-months supply with 2,461 houses for sale. 

The number of bank-owned or foreclosed homes as a percentage of all transactions increased slightly to 4 percent in December from 3 percent in November. The highest percentage in December was 45 percent in 2009.

Locally, the mortgage rate decreased slightly to 3.756 from 3.808 in November. Last year in December, the rate was 4.718. Nationally, the Freddie Mac mortgage rate in December also increased slightly to 3.74 from 3.68 for a 30-year conventional mortgage. 

This data reflects home sales across Berrien, Cass, and the westerly 2/3 of Van Buren counties and should not be used to determine the market value of any individual property. If you want to know the market value of your property, please contact your local REALTOR®.

When Selling a Home…

Before putting your home on the market, there are critical things you should do to increase your home’s value before putting it on the market. The key is to focus on the most important repairs to make before selling a house to ensure every dollar you spend supports a higher asking price. 

This is where your REALTOR® can really give good advice. He or she knows what buyers are expecting and what repairs recoup the most dollars you will spend.

The number one must-make repair is to fix damaged flooring. Scratched-up wood flooring; ratty, outdated carpeting; and tired linoleum really can overwhelm buyers. Fix water stains is #2. For buyers, a water stain suggests there could be a more problems hidden beneath the surface. 

Next, repair torn window screens. This is an easy DIY for around $15. Another small fix with a big impact is yellowing or cracked grout. Buyers will notice. Simple bathroom re-grouting may cost just $1 to $2 per square foot,

You love your pets, but buyers do not. Repair or replace any and all pet damage. Just one sign of pet damage will have buyers suspecting there are other damaged areas.

A full kitchen renovation is rarely worth it when it comes time to sell. If you're updating the space just for your sale, focus on low-cost, high-impact projects instead. Painting wood cabinets, updating hardware, or installing new countertops or appliances could be enough. 

Setting up your home for selling success doesn't have to be expensive. Ask your REALTOR® to help prioritize updates that get your home in selling shape and justify a higher asking price. 

When Buying a Home… A low credit score doesn't have to lock you out of homeownership. A mortgage will probably cost you more (both in dollars and angst) than someone with stellar credit, but many lenders are willing to work with you.

Lenders review your whole financial picture. If you have a steady income, a regular payment history, and some cash in hand, that will help balance your less-than-perfect credit.

Here's how FICO generally categorizes credit scores:

  • 800+ = Excellent credit score
  • 740-799 = Very good credit score
  • 670-739 = Good credit score
  • 580-669 = Fair credit score
  • Below 580 = Poor credit score

A credit score of 669 or below typically makes you a "subprime" borrower, according to FICO. That means you're a bigger risk, so loans will cost more, and your options will be limited. 

Your primary low-credit-score mortgage option will be FHA, which sometimes give loans with credit scores as low as 580. But the lower your score, the more it will cost you. You may pay more in the form of a larger down payment, a higher interest rate, private mortgage insurance, or points, which are fees attached to the loan.

Let your REALTOR® know your credit score at your first meeting, and his/her knowledge of local lenders will help you find the best financial options in your market.

To view properties that are for sale in your local area, go to www.swmar.com and click on “Property Search”. The Southwestern Michigan Association of REALTORS®, Inc. is a professional trade association for real estate professionals who are members of the National Association of REALTORS®, and ancillary service providers for the real estate industry in Allegan, Van Buren, Berrien, and Cass Counties. The Association can be contacted at 269-983-6375 or through their website at www.swmar.com.