The home-buying frenzy continued in Northwest Indiana in February, with both Realtors and builders struggling to keep up with demand.

Potential buyers are facing a dwindling inventory and escalating prices not just in Lake and Porter counties, but in outlying areas as well.

Median sales prices of existing homes were up more than 82% in Starke County and 56% in Pulaski County year-over-year in February, according to the monthly housing statistics released by the Greater Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors.

“Prices have gone drastically up while the number of houses for sale has gone drastically down,” said Judy Flory, a realtor in North Judson.

Flory said she normally would have 50 to 100 houses on the market to show. She’s down to 16 currently.

With so few houses to choose from, Flory said it’s not uncommon to have 10 to 12 offers on a property before it’s even been shown or for properties to sell at the full list price, or above.

GNIAR CEO Peter Novak Jr., said there was a slight uptick in inventory at the end of last year and he had hoped it would continue.

“But that’s not the case at all. Comparing 2021 to 2020, the number of houses for sale is down across the board. We’re not seeing any relief,” he said.

“Full price offers are being rejected. I’ve never seen it this way,” Novak said.

He said normally, when there’s a contingency on a home sale, it’s to give the buyer time to sell their house. He said now the contingency is to give the seller time to find a new place to live.

With few existing houses for sale, some house hunters are turning to builders.

“The supply of existing homes is low enough it’s driving customers to new homebuilders. All homebuilders are working hard to get the product out to meet demand,” said Joe Lenehan, president of the Home Builders Association of Northwest Indiana.

Lenehan said Lake and Porter counties, where Olthof Homes, the company he works for, primarily builds, continues to be a strong market for new homes, especially with Illinois residents looking to cross the border into Indiana.

According to the GNIAR report, the median sales price of existing houses in Lake County rose 11.4% year over year in February, from $166,000 to $185,000, while the number of housing units sold jumped 10%, from 350 to 385.

Median sales prices in Porter County increased 2.4% in the same period, from $205,000 to $209,900, while the number of housing units sold in the county slipped 1.5% year over year, from 135 to 133.

The seven counties that comprise GNIAR membership territory — Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Jasper, Newton, Starke and Pulaski — together had a 9.1% hike in median prices, from $169,575 to $185,000. The total number of houses sold increased 3.5%, from 622 to 644.

The number of houses sold in Starke County rose 15.4%, from 13 to 15, while in Pulaski the number dropped 40%, from 10 to 6.

Flory said she sells properties as far as Bass Lake, Culver and Monticello. While her clients have included folks from Lake and Porter counties and Illinois in the past, she said they were usually retirees or people looking for weekend homes.

Now she’s seeing more people who are still actively working in those areas looking to move further out.

“Some just want to leave the city. It’s also more affordable here and we have lower taxes,” Flory said.

“We don’t do a lot of $2, $3, or $400,000 homes here. We have people looking for $150,000 homes,” she said.

Lenahan said the new homebuilders are seeing a broad demand. Some need to relocate quickly and are choosing already built houses. Others want to customize their new house to suit their needs. He said flexible spaces that can be turned into home offices are important to many buyers.
Copyright © 2022, Chicago Tribune