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Fargo housing market healthy

The Fargo housing market is among the healthiest in the nation, while Bismarck enjoys the top spot for increasing values of existing single-family homes, according to a National Association of Realtors report released Monday.

The Fargo housing market is among the healthiest in the nation, while Bismarck enjoys the top spot for increasing values of existing single-family homes, according to a National Association of Realtors report released Monday.

In Fargo, the median price for an existing single-family home was $145,700 in November, up 6.1 percent from a year before.

In Bismarck the median price for an existing home was $161,600, up 15.1 percent, the report said. The price of existing apartment, condominium and co-op homes was $133,300 in Bismarck in November, up 22.3 percent from a year before, the NAR reported.

Real estate experts cited the strong local and regional economies, plus the absence of the real estate speculation that drove prices artificially high in major metro areas, for the strong showings.

Things are just in balance in the Fargo area, said Brenda Martinson, president of the Fargo-Moorhead Area Association of Realtors. She cited a diverse industrial and agricultural job base.


"When we see a 6 percent increase over last year, we're in line with wages ... we're in harmony" with the factors that make housing affordable, she said.

The energy economy in western North Dakota is booming in all sectors - oil, gas, coal, wind and biodiesel, said Doug Schonert, president of the Bismarck-Mandan Board of Realtors. With agriculture also humming along, the pressure is on for more housing, he said.

"Western North Dakota is just coming alive. It's a big change from a few years ago," Schonert said.

"What we have in the Upper Midwest is a very strong regional market. All of the markets are very healthy in North Dakota," said Dave Lanpher, a broker associate in Fargo and president-elect of the North Dakota Association of Realtors.

"In Fargo, I just think we are a regional hub," Lanpher said. "People are still moving here, businesses are still locating here. Overall, the economy is good and interest rates are still low."

Nationally, the median price of existing single-family homes fell 2 percent to $220,800, the NAR reported. Home prices in the South and West saw the biggest declines, 3.6 percent and 3.8 percent, respectively. Prices in the Northeast were up 3.2 percent, while the Midwest saw an increase of 0.5 percent.

Minneapolis-St. Paul saw a 1.7 percent drop in the median price of an existing single-family home to $229,600, while Sioux Falls, S.D., home prices increased 5.1 percent to $147,100, the NAR reported.

The quarterly Standard and Poor's Case-Shiller Home Price Index issued Wednesday showed sharper declines than the NAR for its 20-city composite group, down 6.1 percent in October from the year before. The Case-Shiller 10-city composite group posted a record 6.7 percent drop in housing prices.


Seventeen of 20 metro areas tracked by the Standard and Poor saw prices sag. Minneapolis posted a 5.5 percent drop in home prices in the last year, while Miami saw a 12.4 percent decline, Tampa, Fla., 11.8 percent, Detroit 11.2 percent, San Diego 11.1 percent and Las Vegas 10.7 percent.

The national housing market isn't expected to hit bottom until 2009, according to David Seiders, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders.

In a Palm Beach (Fla.) Post report, Seiders predicted single-home prices will continue to erode in 2008 due to a heavy backlog of unsold homes. "There are currently 2.1 million vacant homes for sale on the market," he said, with 700,000 being the excess in more normal times.

Other analysts point to continued home foreclosures tied to the subprime mortgage crisis as another factor that will depress home prices through 2008 as those homes are resold at discounts.

In March, Sperling's Best Places listed Fargo as 10th in the nation among cities with affordable housing and plenty of jobs. The list, put together for MSN Real Estate, said a low cost of living and the lowest unemployment rate in the country - 2.6 percent at the time - makes the area an attractive place to live and work.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583 Fargo housing market healthy Helmut Schmidt 20080101

Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at hschmidt@forumcomm.com, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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