WARREN - Although jobless rates continue to improve, Trumbull County Realtors are seeing struggling home sales, with May's home sales dipping more than 4 percent compared to sales last year at this time.
Mahoning County, meanwhile, shows a continued improvement, this time by 21 percent over this time last year, according to numbers released Monday by the Youngstown-Columbiana Realtors Association and the Warren Area Board of Realtors.
Home buyers in Trumbull County closed on 161 homes in May, down 4.2 percent from the 168 buyers purchased in May 2012. By contrast, Mahoning County home buyers closed on 236 homes, up 21 percent from the 195 sold in May 2012. Trumbull County's decline in home sales was at least the third consecutive month that the numbers dropped.
And while the number of homes on the market in both counties remains down significantly, the president of the Warren Area Board of Realtors doesn't think inventory is solely to blame.
"The inventory is low, but I think really it's employment," said Warren Area Board of Realtors president Marlin L. Palich.
Figures released Monday indicate that inventory in both local counties remains low. The number of homes on the market in Trumbull County stood at 1,131, down 11 percent from 1,272 a year ago. The number of homes for sale in Mahoning County was 1,365 in May, down almost 15 percent from 1,596 listed homes one year ago. Inventory in both counties ranked among the lowest since 2004.
While that may be leading to the quicker sale of homes on the market, selling prices aren't rebounding as would be expected.
While Trumbull County homes sold in May within 120 days on average, down from the 154-day average for May 2012, the median selling price was down 6.7 percent to $70,000 from $75,000 a year ago. Mahoning County homes were on the market an average of just 117 days, also down from the 155-day average a year ago, but median selling price was $78,000, down about 0.3 percent from $78,250 a year ago.
Jobless rates in the area have improved in recent months when compared to jobless rates from a year ago, and remained close to the nationwide average. April figures for the two-county area were listed at 7.6 percent, the same as April 2012, and just a tenth of a percentage point above the nationwide jobless rate of 7.5 percent. May jobless figures have not yet been released.
Still, Palich said residents remain cautious in their plans to purchase homes.
"I think the refinancing boom is over and maybe people who were going to move up are just staying where they are at," Palich said.
"I think there is more activity in Mahoning and Columbiana counties," Palich said, attributing much of it to the growing oil and gas drilling industry that hasn't yet had as significant of an impact in Trumbull County. "I think people are cautionary. With finance restructuring, there's more difficulty in obtaining loans. The economy just needs to improve."