Local housing market improving, realtors say

OSCEOLA COUNTY — Bulls are chasing bears out of the local housing market, and real estate agents in Mecosta and Osceola counties couldn't be more pleased.

Laura Veersma and Sue Bean from Big Rapids Realty say they are seeing positive trends.

"I think we're showing signs of increase and improvement, shrinking inventory and a shorter time on the market," Veersma said. "However, there are a combination of factors for a success."

The pair said buyers are looking for properties in good condition and at a price point that matches the current market. In terms of house size and layout, it varies from buyer to buyer.

"I think people are generally liking an open floor plan and master suites," Veersma added. "When it comes to how many bedrooms and bathrooms, it really depends on what the individual or family is looking for."

Bean said buyers are both local and coming from outside the area looking for a vacation home, as Mecosta County is close to major cities, yet far enough away to feel they are in the country.

"We're still affordable compared to some areas and we're still a short drive from cities like Grand Rapids," she said. "We're on the fringe of what people describe as northern Michigan."

Lots with acreage, multi-family properties and well-kept rentals also are being swept up more quickly if the price is right.

Gary Bailey, of Crossroads Realty of Michigan, echoed Veersma and Bean's opinions on the housing market.

"We're selling a lot of real estate," Bailey said. "As far as prices, they're inching up and that's the way they're supposed to go. Property is selling more closely to what it should be. The market has actually gone up about 5 percent in the last couple of years."

Homeowners are looking to buy houses in the larger cities in Osceola County, as well as developed areas around the county's many lakes. Bailey also said modern homes with more than two bedrooms are selling more quickly than smaller homes to accommodate larger families, especially with younger adults.

"In our unique area, when people buy a secondary home or move, they're coming here because it's about three and a half hours from Detroit, three and a half hours from Chicago, and they can get away and get back home easily enough," Bailey said. "We're starting to see vacant lands, single-family homes and multi-family homes selling."

Rentals also are a hot item, and Bailey said he has to turn six to 10 people away each day because rentals are full. Land contracts and people paying in cash are becoming more popular as well.

He believes improvements in the housing market indicate how the state's economy is faring.

"I think it says Michigan as a whole has come a long way," Bailey added. "It's coming back from where we were in 2006, but we have ways to go yet. We still have issues out there, but prices for homes are still reasonably priced. It's more balanced right now and I think it will continue to improve."