Housing market seeing uptick in sales

Spring 2012 is shaping up to be the best time to sell your home in recent years.   

Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors (MAAR) reports median sales price in the Twin Cities jumped 6.4 percent to $149,000 since last March, and things are looking up. Northeast Minneapolis experienced a 38 percent jump in median sales price, and in the city’s southwest region alone pending sales have jumped nearly 60 percent since March last year.  

“It’s really been on the upswing since June 2011. March is the ninth consecutive month of increases,” said David Arbit, a market analyst for MAAR. “I’m more comfortable saying this is an actual pattern. I don’t expect it to reverse.” 

MAAR attributed a warm winter, low interest rates, affordable prices and a sense of urgency on the part of buyers has contributed to the housing boost.

The fresh movement in the market has perked up for real estate agents.

“Agents have put southwest buyers on alert that if something new hits the market today, please be ready,” said Matt Loskota, sales manager for the City Lakes Office. “We want to go look at it immediately.” 

Since the housing frenzy in the first half of the decade, prices have bottomed out, causing the supply of houses for sale to drop and the demand to rise. Sellers are getting good prices for their homes while buyers usually don’t overpay.

“We’ve had a few years where the market has been correcting itself from the over-heated market from the first half of the decade,” Loskota said. “It drove up prices to an unsustainable level for those years … they’re finally saying now is the time to buy.” 

“It really will be encouraging for consumers,” Arbit said of the March data. “It’s a critical data month, critical data point, we’re finally crossing this threshold from below to above.”

The experience of finding a house has been “seamless” for Robyn and Jesse Cutler, two first-time homebuyers moving here from San Francisco.  

“We had been renting for 12 years in the highest rental market in the country,” Jesse Cutler said. “We decided we wanted to move my business to Minneapolis and start a family … it’s just a better economic decision.” 

The couple focused on Southwest Minneapolis. “The whole area is very family friendly, all these amazing elementary schools, all the restaurants and coffee shops,” Jesse said. 

They looked at about 15 places in a week and found a home they truly love. 

“The place we wound up with was really move-in ready,” Robyn Cutler said. “That was important for us since we’re essentially coming into a new place and starting over.” 

It seems that most people aren’t looking to do much work to a potential new home.

“A buyer’s not going to pay top dollar to fix or clean a house,” Loskota said. “Smart sellers are staging their properties…the best way to clean a house and make it fresh is to slap a new coat of paint on as many walls as needed.” 

Making sure walls are clean and getting rid of ugly colors is key to making a home sellable, Loskota said. He also recommended arranging furniture to show off the house, focusing on the kitchen and also doing landscape work.

Fritz Kroll, a Realtor with Edina Realty who specializes in condos in the downtown area, said anyone thinking of selling their condo should really take those tips to heart. 

“Most people looking for condos don’t want to do a thing [to the place],” Kroll said. “They want everything to be just right.” 

The apartment and condominium market downtown has been also been flourishing.

“Things are really selling and it feels really good,” Kroll said. “Demand for living downtown has never been stronger.”

New construction in the area practically stopped a few years ago when the market bottomed out, but now people are interested in buying — or renting — again. 

Kroll said the two biggest groups of buyers are young professionals with or without families and empty nesters. 

“There’s a pretty big group of people who are renters by choice,” he said. “They want to rent because they’re unsure of their job, or unsure of moving to a new city…the rental markets are insane right now.” 

“It’s looking increasingly likely that the worst is behind us,” Andy Fazendin, MAAR President-Elect said in a news release. “We continue to see encouraging signals from the market that allow for an improving view on residential real estate in 2012.”

Kelsey Shirriff is studying journalism at the University of Minnesota.