Local real estate agents weigh in on Elkhart County market

One real estate agent said she's noticing more confidence in both buyers and sellers.

Posted on July 17, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on July 17, 2013 at 6:45 p.m.

The real estate market in Elkhart County continues to recover, but there are still some areas with room to improve, according to some local real estate agents.

Elkhart County appeared as one of 255 metro areas on a July list of improving markets released by the National Association of Home Builders/First America.

“I expect 2013 to be a good 20 percent, maybe 25 percent better than last year,” said Carolyn Houston, manager for the Cressy & Everett offices in Elkhart and Goshen. “It’s on track to being the best year since 2008.”

Houston has been in the real estate business for 28 years and has been a witness to the ups and downs of Elkhart County’s housing market.

“We still have short sales and we still have foreclosures but those numbers are decreasing monthly,” she said.

Open houses have also had a lot of activity, Houston said, with half a dozen to a dozen groups of people coming through homes on a Sunday.

“People are out and about,” she said. “If you’ve got a nice home and price it right, more than likely it’s going to sell fairly quickly, more so than in 2010 to 2012.”

Christina Clauss is a broker associate for Century 21 Landmark Realty Group and has worked in Elkhart County since 2000. She said the market has been busy lately, and she’s noticing more buyer and seller confidence.

“We’re seeing things selling a lot faster at their price in the market,” she said.

Clauss added that multiple offers on properties are becoming common again.

House prices are on the rise too.

From January 2012 to March 2013, the average asking price in Elkhart County increased 9.5 percent and the average sale price increased 10.8 percent, Clauss said, citing multiple listing service data.

Bob Beck, a real estate agent for Century 21, said that one thing he’s noticed in Elkhart County is low inventory.

“There are buyers out there, but there’s just not enough homes for them to see,” Beck said.

Still, he’s optimistic that the market will even out soon.

“As soon as we get through the next two to three weeks when everybody gets back from vacation, we’re gonna see more listings and more sales,” Beck said. “July is typically slow.”

Beck said most homes he’s sold lately have been between $125,000 and $150,000, “but there are more in the $200,000 range than what I think there was last year,” Beck said.

The industrial and retail real estate markets in Elkhart County have their own ups and downs.

Brent Miller is senior vice president of FM Stone Commercial. He deals primarily with industrial real estate. He said that market is doing well, but it isn’t at the same level it was last year.

“Last year was somewhat of an anomaly just because it was so active,” he said. “When you base everything off that it looks bleak, but it’s not. We’re getting back to more normal levels like before everything crashed.”

He added that current projections are pretty much on what a normal market would be.

John Letherman is a partner at FM Stone Commercial who deals primarily in retail markets. He said that side of real estate is struggling in Elkhart County, largely due to empty spaces.

“We have a good deal of vacancy, particularly in some of the older centers,” Letherman said.

Those older centers include Woodland Crossing — which Letherman said has 15 to 20 vacancies — Parkmore Plaza and North Pointe Plaza.

Some areas are just overbuilt, he said, and that there are more vacancies than tenants.

“The prime locations are holding up pretty well,” Letherman said, listing Linway Plaza and Market Center as areas that are thriving.

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