MANKATO — The downward spiral in the local housing market may be at an end, according to figures from the first six months of the year.
In the immediate Mankato-North Mankato area, housing sales rose 13 percent in the first six months of the year compared to the same period in 2011.
The median sales prices rose slightly from $150,000 last year to $155,000 this year.
The rebound was slightly better in the Twin Cities metro area where sales were up 17.4 percent in the first half of the year and the median sales price reached $179,500.
“Overall, we’re seeing a slight uptick in the market,” said Tom Atwood, of Century 21 Atwood Realty in Mankato.
“The inventory is down, which helps.”
But real estate agents are concerned about the number of listings jumping. That’s because foreclosures were largely put on hold over the past year after the government found some banks were improperly processing foreclosures.
“The rumor is there might be a flood of (foreclosures) coming soon. We don’t want to see that because it drives the market back down,” Atwood said.
An onslaught of new, often distressed, properties on the market produces more supply than demand and pushes down sales prices.
Still, Atwood likes seeing the positive sales trends of 2012 and says record low interest rates help.
“The rates are fantastic at 3 3/8ths for a 30 year fixed mortgage.”
The good news in the housing market is mostly matched by other local economic indicators, as tracked by The Free Press’s Minnesota Valley Business magazine.
Vehicle sales are up, consumers are shopping and eating out more, home building has picked up and unemployment claims have fallen.
Local spending jumps
Consumers opened their wallets more freely in Mankato in March and April, according to local sales tax information collected by the city.
Sales tax collections were solid this spring in Mankato. In March nearly $339,000 was collected and April’s collection was $398,000. That compares with about $318,000 collected in those two months last year.
And people ate and drank out more as well. The city collected nearly $48,000 in food and beverage taxes in March and $61,500 in April — up from about $44,000 and $50,000 a year early.
Vehicle sales strong
The number of vehicles sold by Mankato dealers during the first four months of the year rose 18 percent compared to the same period last year.
Dealers sold 3,576 vehicles during the first four months, with January and March the strongest sales months.
Housing starts soar
New housing starts jumped 74 percent in the first five months of this year compared to the same period a year earlier.
In Mankato and North Mankato there were 82 housing starts through May, up from 47 starts for the same time last year.
Mixed bag in residential permits
Mankato saw its residential building permits jump by 32 percent in the first five months of the year compared to a year earlier.
North Mankato saw a 23 percent drop in residential building permits.
Mankato issued permits valued at $9.5 million the first five months of last year and $12.6 million this year. North Mankato had $6.3 million the first five months last year and $4.9 million this year.
The value of the permits includes all residential remodeling projects as well as new home and apartment construction.
Local unemployment claims fall
The number of people filing for initial unemployment claims fell significantly in all nine area counties in June.
Claims dropped by 24 percent in the nine-county area, with Blue Earth County falling 23 percent and Nicollet County falling 22 percent.
Unemployment claims fell statewide in June.
Number of jobs steady
The number of non-farm jobs in the Mankato-North Mankato Metropolitan Statistical Area held steady in June, compared to a year earlier.
There were 55,997 jobs in the Blue Earth and Nicollet counties, up slightly from the 55,988 jobs in June of 2011.
Unemployment rate mixed in region
The unemployment rate is at or below the state rate of 5.2 percent in five of the nine area counties. Blue Earth and Nicollet counties both had unemployment rates of 4.4 percent in May — the lowest in the region.
Le Sueur County continues to have the highest unemployment rate in the region at 6.1 percent.