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Columbus Housing Market Sluggish

The central Ohio housing market continues to struggle. The Columbus Board of Realtors says home sales were down nearly 12 percent last month - compared to a year ago. Realtors are pointing to one stat that might give home sellers some hope.

So far this year, home sales are off about 14 percent and July's figures did not help reverse that trend. Every category listed by the board of realtors - items such as new listings, list price, sale price - all show negative numbers. Columbus Board of Realtors president Greg Hrabcak blames several factors, including a faltering economy.

"I think part of it is the economy," Hrabcak says. "Keep in mind, too, lending standards have changed a little bit. You're not seeing what would be sub-prime loans; lending requirements are a little tighter."

The average price for a home in Columbus is down 5 percent from a year ago. Last month the average sale price was $174,000. But one statistic has realtors feeling optimistic. The number of homes in contract - that is, buyers have legally agreed to buy them - is at an eleven month high. The realtors Board reports two-thousand fifty-one homes were in-contract in July. That's the highest number since August, 2007. As a result, says Hrabcak, the number of homes up for sale in the Columbus market is shrinking.

"As more homes go into contract our inventory is going down so we see it as something very positive," Hrabcak says.

But Paul Weinstock, senior lecturer in Finance at Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business says he's not particularly optimistic about the in contract figures.

I can't see where there's anything good about that. I don't know what those contracts are, I don't know what contingencies are in those contracts. You know you can have a contract and if it doesn't come to fruition it doesn't make any difference.

Weinstock says he'd rather see statistics on home closings.