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Realtors say they believe buyers showing signs of regaining confidence

This home on the market in southeast Willmar now wears a "sold" sign. Local Realtors say the market is seeing an increase in buyer activity and they're predicting a good summer for the housing market. Tribune photos by Anne Polta
News Willmar,Minnesota 56201
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Realtors say they believe buyers showing signs of regaining confidence
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

Randy Ryan had 18 open houses last weekend for homes listed for sale. The schedule was so busy that Ryan, a Realtor with RE/MAX Preferred Realty, had to recruit extra help. He sees it as an encouraging sign that the residential real estate market is regaining strength.

"We're noticing there's more interest than we've ever had," Ryan said, predicting that this summer will be "phenomenal."

"There are many more buyers than we've had in previous years," he said.

As home sales head into their most active time of year, buyers who were hunkered down during the recession seem to be recovering their confidence. Pent-up demand is beginning to emerge, said Shelley Crow, owner-broker of Century 21 Kandi Realty.

"I look forward to a great summer and a great fall," she said.

The National Realtors Association launched the summer last weekend with a nationwide open house. More than 300 Realtor organizations signed up for the chance to showcase homes for sale and connect buyers and sellers across the U.S.

This Saturday and Sunday the West Central Realtors Association is hosting its own open house event. Seventy-four listings are featured across the region, from Granite Falls to Paynesville, Spicer and Willmar.

Paul Ryan, president of the West Central Realtors Association and a broker with RE/MAX Preferred Realty in Willmar and Spicer, said it's a good opportunity this summer for buyers to enter the market.

"There is a good inventory out there right now. There's plenty of homes to look at in all price ranges," he said.

According to figures from the Minnesota Association of Realtors, Minnesota's housing market was still struggling in April, the most recent month for which statistics are available. Compared to April 2010, the number of new listings and sales and the median sales price were down across the state.

The picture varies region to region, however. In southwest central Minnesota, there are fewer listings than there were a year ago but homes are selling more quickly. On average, homes in the region, which includes Kandiyohi, Meeker, McLeod and Renville counties, are selling within 102 days of being listed. A year ago, they were on the market an average of 127 days.

The region's median home price also is creeping back up -- and at $133,500, it's higher than the statewide average median of $132,900.

Local Realtors said the market appeared to bottom out in the first half of 2010 and prices have now adjusted.

The region managed to escape the worst of the overheating that occurred before the recession, Crow said. "We're very lucky around here. We didn't see the massive overbuilding that St. Cloud and the Twin Cities saw. ... There's been less unemployment and not as many foreclosures."

One sign she finds especially encouraging: More buyers are entering the market because they're being transferred by an employer, an indication of growing confidence in the economy.

Crow said she showed 14 homes Tuesday and seven more on Wednesday morning.

"We're seeing a lot more things moving," she said. "It is an excellent time to buy because interest rates are super low. There is a good selection of homes."

Another gauge is the West Central Realtors Association open house event, held the second weekend of every month. This regional initiative began in January to promote and market homes for sale in the area, and it has been gathering steam ever since, Paul Ryan said. "It's been improving and improving every single month."

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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