Slow, steady climb for home prices

Home prices are forecast to increase in 2014, but local realtors expect sales to remain steady as they look forward to the new year.

“The price increase will be a slower, steady climb this year. In our area we don’t have huge fluctuations in pricing that may be seen in other places,” said Nancy Arthur, owner of Advantage Real Estate in Marietta.

She said that’s good news for the local market.

“Sellers won’t have to take big losses and buyers don’t have to worry about high home costs,” Arthur said. “And interest rates on mortgages are very good. There could be a slight increase in those rates from 4.5 percent to 5 percent, but even if interest rates go to 6.5 percent or 7 percent, that’s still not bad.”

Nationally home sales and prices are projected to rise in 2014, but most economists expect those increases will come more slowly than in the past year, according to a recent report from the Associated Press.

Real estate data watcher CoreLogic reported home prices in November were up by a total 11.8 percent over the previous year, but the price gain between October and November was only 0.1 percent.

Still, in December the percentage of Americans planning to buy a home in the next six months was the highest since July, according to the AP, and just this weekend Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said improvement in Americans’ finances make the outlook for home sales brighter in 2014.

Steve McCarthy, managing broker with Real Living McCarthy Real Estate in Marietta, agrees.

“If the projections are correct about the current shale oil and gas boom, we’re on the edge of a home sales boom, too,” he said.

McCarthy said the demand for housing will pressure the local market on both sides of the Ohio River.

“That should have a tremendous impact on home sales in this area,” he said. “So I think prices will go up on both new and existing homes. It’s simply a matter of supply and demand.”

He agreed with Arthur that every real estate market is different throughout the nation.

“Real estate is local by nature,” McCarthy said. “What’s happening in Washington County can be totally different than in other areas. As a rule the Mid-Ohio Valley market is pretty stable. And we’re set to be the beneficiary of this oil and gas boom.”