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Region's housing market stumbles

August home sales in Northeastern Minnesota usually slip from their midsummer peak, but last month they fell. From July to August, sales dropped 20 percent -- from 229 to 183, according to the Duluth Area Association of Realtors. Last year, sales...

Home sales
August home sales in Northeastern Minnesota usually slip from their midsummer peak, but last month they fell. (File / News Tribune)

August home sales in Northeastern Minnesota usually slip from their midsummer peak, but last month they fell.

From July to August, sales dropped 20 percent -- from 229 to 183, according to the Duluth Area Association of Realtors.

Last year, sales between those months dipped 6 percent, from 221 to 207.

The month's median selling price also slipped about 5 percent compared to July and 13 percent compared to August 2008. The price was $130,000 last month, down from $137,200 in July and $149,000 in August 2008.

This stat caught the eye of Pat Johnson, president of the Duluth Area Association of Realtors and a broker for Focus Real Estate group.

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"In this economy, is anything startling? Probably not," Johnson said. "But I haven't seen a reason for it [the median price] to go down."

Signifying a return of the area's real estate market, the median selling price had trended upward by about $25,000 during four straight months from April to July. Last year, the median selling price was above $142,000 in the summer and fall before plummeting to $127,900 in December.

"I wouldn't call it startling, but it was a bit of a surprise," Johnson said of the decline. "I looked at the graph and saw the sale price was down a bit, and we had been going up for so long."

Johnson pointed to the high number of pending sales in August as an indicator that the current real estate market is cyclical, not declining.

"I'm thinking September will be a higher sales month," Johnson said of the 2009 high of 224 pending sales in August -- up from 187 in July. Realtors also expect a bump by Nov. 30, when the first-time homebuyer tax credit expires.

"I think we will see strong sales now for a little bit," she said.

Related Topics: HOUSINGREAL ESTATE
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