The region's housing market is still brisk and still weighted toward sellers, but compared to the situation in mid-year, buyers are now having an easier time getting a foot in the door.

Agents said it's possible inflation could slow the market's momentum, although it isn't a huge problem yet in local Indiana and Kentucky communities.

Bidding wars for listed homes are not as common as they were earlier this year. Tony Buzzella and his wife, Penny, were thankful to avoid one recently when they relocated from Virginia to Henderson, Kentucky.

The two Army veterans (Penny is still in the Reserves) have two girls, and Amber Wood of Collier & Co. Real Estate led them a Henderson County home with a big yard.

After living a military lifestyle that took the couple around the world – their girls were born in Japan – the Buzzellas look forward to staying put for awhile. Penny is from Henderson.

Their new home needs some renovations, but that’s OK with the Buzzellas. They are in the home repair and investment business.

“The house we wound up buying is a combination of all the houses we’ve owned and what we were trying to find,” said Tony Buzzella said, and projects that the home needs “are in my wheelhouse.”

After getting between eight and 12 offers for every new listing during the spring and summer, local agents now receive two to four offers in many cases. Inventory of available houses remains low, but not quite as low as it had been.

“Before, you’d put a sign in the yard, go to bed and there would be multiple offers the next morning,” said Liz Miller of ERA First Advantage Realty, based in Newburgh. “Now, it’s a couple days later. It’s not the instant, cutthroat rush that you have to be the first offer on the table.”

In some circumstances, though, local buyers remain willing to bid above a listed price and waive a pre-purchase inspection to snare the house they want — sings of a strong selling environment.

Location, condition and price range remain key to determining how many offers a listing gets and how fast they come in, agents said.

The Newburgh area, for instance, remains popular. Listings there under $200,000 are scarce and attract numerous bids. Northern Vanderburgh County neighborhoods also are hot.

Agents in Henderson County are seeing the same trends as those north the Ohio River, with one exception.

New home construction is fairly robust in Warrick and Vanderburgh counties, but hardly any building is happening in Henderson. That means the inventory of available listings is very tight — even more so than in Southwest Indiana. 

"We need new construction," said Wood, president of the Henderson Audubon Board of Realtors. "We need homes for all demographics — first-time homebuyers, millennials, aging populations."

Agents say inflation is something to watch, but locally, it's not slowing the earnestness of many buyers.

"Not yet," Wood said. "it's coming. We still have multiple offers when we have a new listing on the market."

Buyers create the market by what they are willing to pay for a home, said John Czoer of First Class Realty in Evansville and president of the Southwest Indiana Board of Realtors.

“If someone has sold their home and are looking at finding a home for their family so they don't have to rent, they may be willing to pay more for that convenience of not renting while they find a home," Czoer said. "Someone that doesn't have to move but just wants a new home may not be as motivated.”

Clients of Czoer, John and Staci Sutton, had much an easier time selling their current house than buying the one they're about to move into.

The couple and their two dogs are leaving a North Side home off Old State Road. "The very first day we put it up for sale, we received four offers and they were all over asking price," John Sutton said.

The buying part of the process required more patience. The Suttons entered bidding derbies on multiple homes, including one where they outbid a buyer than ultimately got the home. It's possible the successful buyer offered cash or waived an inspection, John Sutton said.

Persistence paid off, however: the Suttons are moving to a home in northern Posey County. The couple's offer was above the asking price, and John said he and his wife are excited to live in their "dream home."

Buying turned out to be a snap for Dave Waldeck and his wife, Aimee Mark, who recently snatched up a new home in northwest Vanderburgh County for themselves and two young sons. The couple was in no hurry: they waited for the right opportunity to come along and pounced when it did. 

"In our case it was a sell by owner, and were not aware of any other bids," Waldeck said.

"We bid the asking price and were able to turn it around in a day."

The family now will turn to selling their home on Evansville's West Side. Waldeck, who will work on that process with Miller, his cousin, said he doesn't anticipate it will take long for the home to move.

"All indications are it might not be a day turnaround, but within a week is what we would expect," Waldeck said.

The real estate market's pendulum favored the sellers' side throughout 2021, and it still does, but it is swinging a bit closer to the middle as the year winds down, said Andy Rudolph of F.C. Tucker Emge. He's president-elect of the Indiana Association of Realtors.

"You seeing some first-time buyers and people with loans (have success now), where they competing with cash offers through the summer," Rudolph said.

By the numbers

The numbers paint a vivid picture of how robust the year in real estate sales has been,

As of Dec. 16, Vanderburgh County has had 2,627 homes sold, at an average price of $187,365, with sold properties spending an average 22 days on the market.

Through the same period of 2020, there were 2,552 homes sold in Vanderburgh, at an average price of $167,741 and an average 40 days on the market.

Warrick County this year has had 1,011 homes sold, at an average $275,984 and an average 17 days on the market. Those are all increases from 949 sales, an average price of $242,597 and 33 days on the market in 2020.

In the Kentucky counties of Henderson, Union and Webster, 474 homes have been sold this year compared to 470 at the same point in 2020. The average sale price of $175,688 is up from $159,013, with an average 28 days on market, down from 56 in 2020.

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