Metro Detroit home sales rise slightly as prices fall

Posted on February 15, 2011

January home sales in Metro Detroit were up over last year, but prices were down.

Sales of homes and condominiums last month gained 3.5 percent compared with January 2010, according to data released Monday by the RealComp II Ltd. multiple listing service in Farmington Hills. The increases ranged from about 3 percent in Wayne County to nearly a 5 percent boost in Macomb County.

Sales in Livingston County dropped slightly and major declines of 17 percent to 20 percent were recorded in Genesee and St. Clair counties, but the percentage decline was exaggerated by the small number of sales. In Detroit, the difference was less than 90 sales and in St. Clair it was just 14 fewer closings for the month.

Although sales rose, median sales prices declined, falling 7.7 percent in Metro Detroit to $60,000 this January from $65,000 last year. The price drops were about 3 percent and 4percent in Macomb and Oakland counties, respectively, while Wayne showed a 5.7 percent gain.

Total homes for sale also dropped, slipping 12.8 percent in Metro Detroit and by as much as 23.7 percent in Oakland County.

Part of the sales lag could be from the nationwide foreclosure moratoriums enacted at the end of last year by lenders after doubts were raised over the legal concerns.

RealComp Chief Executive Officer Karen Kage said it may be behind the drop in homes for sale and prices.

“Banks and other lenders who are hesitant to foreclose are turning to short sales first, instead of going through the foreclosure process,” Kage said.

In a short sale, the lender agrees to allow the homeowner to sell the property for less than the amount owed. “It’s not necessarily a bad thing,” Kage said, “but it doesn’t help with bringing the prices up.”

By Brian J. O’Connor, Detroit News