People wanting to locate to Fulton County aren’t imagining the shortage of available houses and rental properties.
For reasons not entirely clear to some local Realtors, there has been a dearth of properties on the market around the county the last six months, and they’re hoping warmer weather will shake a few loose.
“I think the spring and summer market are going to be our indicator,” said Mary Jo Fischer, vice president of operations for DiSalle Real Estate in Wauseon. “Interest rates are really good, and the buyers are out there. There’s just a lack of inventory for them to buy.”
The market is so dry locally that “we list a property, and they’re gone in between 24 and 48 hours if the price is right,” she said.
Fischer can’t give a good explanation for the inventory shortage, even though interest rates are still under four percent and buyers are champing at the bit to purchase.
“I haven’t seen a housing shortage like this in a long time,” she said.
DiSalle Real Estate currently has 10 listings in the entire county; Fischer usually carries that many herself. In a regular situation, the company would carry 20-25 listings at a given time.
Fischer hopes the market will open up with the onset of warmer weather. She said sellers typically want their houses advertised after Easter.
It may be possible to attribute less availability to the increase in pricing, Fischer said. “You’re getting more equity in your home. I don’t know if people are sitting on it to see if it goes higher.”
The company has made notice on social media that it’s a good time to sell. However, “I think it’s just the fear of timing for people,” Fischer said. “If the inventory is that low, are they going to be able to find somewhere to go (after selling). They’re afraid their property is going to sell too quickly.”
The “shortage of inventory,” as Realtors dub it, isn’t just affecting Fulton County. Realtors across Ohio are feeling the pinch, according to Robert Fletcher, CEO of the Ohio Association of Realtors.
“There are a very limited number of properties being listed according to historical levels. Absolutely, it’s a problem statewide,” he said.
He attaches some blame on a residual amount of shock value from the past recession, when property values dived and home equity was lost. “That’s gotten better, but there’s just a hangover from that,” he said.
Fletcher also cites a continued dip in new construction projects and the reluctance of homeowners to sell because the market offers very few options.
“There’s a lot of uneasiness on the part of the sellers to put that property out there. They’re afraid they won’t find a suitable place because there’s nothing out there,” he said.
He also mentioned a narrower factor – people who have incurred student debt and subsequently can’t qualify for a house loan. “So it’s hurt the first-time home buyers, too,” Fletcher said.
The lack of available properties is a very real issue, “and the Realtors (in northwest Ohio) are probably feeling it as much as anyone else. The economy getting better ultimately will cure it,” he said.
Dick Perkins, owner and broker of Oak Valley Realtors in Swanton, said a red-hot market is the reason for his low inventory.
“The market is fantastic right now. It’s the best sales market I’ve seen in 35 years,” he said.
According to Perkins, last week there were only 19 houses available between all of the brokers in the Swanton zip code area. Eight years ago, there were 110. Perkins attributes the current shortage to a dry spell in construction during the recession’s five-year downturn, which has now led to a pent-up demand for housing.
He said a house that becomes available now is usually sold within three or four days, leaving inventory constantly low.
“Buyers are swarming to any house up for sale. There’s no build-up supply opportunity,” he said. “Interest rates are low and people who didn’t have job security before have it now, and they’re buying.”
He added, “If you have one house to look at you’d better buy it, because it’s going to be sold tomorrow.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.