Post-recession real estate recovery uneven across central Indiana

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ANDERSON, Ind. -- A new Washington Post study shows a very uneven recession recovery for real estate markets in central Indiana.

The analysis shows how far behind some cities and counties, like Anderson, are lagging. On the one hand, that’s made the cost of living in those places comparatively better to their neighbors.

“Cost of living here is so much more reasonable,” Merrick Bennett said. “I really don’t think I could’ve afforded any kind of housing in Hamilton County.”

Bennett is an Anderson native, who moved away three years ago. When she sold her home, the market wasn’t strong. Now, the market is recovering, but is still weak enough to keep home prices low.

Agent Carol Miller, who sold the home, says it would cost at least $30,000 more in Hamilton County.

“The values of the homes just continued to drop year after year,” Bennett said. “Some of the surrounding counties were staying stable, but we were kind of coming down.”

A long-range look at home values in Hamilton county and bordering parts of Indianapolis,  makes it look like the recession never happened. There, average prices are up anywhere from 14-16 percent from 2004.

In every zip code in Anderson, prices are down four percent.

“People still don’t have a lot of money in pocket and in their savings accounts to spend when they get into a house, so sometimes the sellers have to help with some closing cost,” Bennett said.

Miller says that’s a symptom of the area’s sluggish economic recovery.

“We lost jobs by the thousands and we’re gaining them by the thousands, so you know, it’s a different world,” Miller said.

Miller says with the economy slowly improving, the Anderson real estate market is rebounding too.

The median home price is up $10,000 from this time last year. Carol believes it won’t be long before the city sees home values back up to where they were in 2004.

“Things have been coming up,” Miller said. "You know, we have a lot to make up for. We’re not back  up to where we were, but it is definitely on the mend.”

In the past two months, she’s sold two houses that had multiple offers, something she hasn’t seen in years. Discussions with other realtors over the past year make her believe this indicates a lasting trend toward a wholly improved Anderson real estate market.

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