Despite a slight pause when the pandemic first hit our shore, the real estate market in Northwest Indiana continues to be robust.
“I listed a $130,000 house in Griffith and within three days we had 20 showings, and four offers and it sold for cash,” says Joe Rogowski, a broker with McColly Real Estate Schererville. “I put up a listing on a $170,000 townhome in Merrillville and we had 14 showing and four offers in 3 days.”
Rogowski, who has been in the real estate business for 34 years and previously managed a real estate office for two decades, says he’s never seen a market move as quickly as this one is currently doing.
“The average time a house is on the market, depending on price range and location is weeks even days compared to months which is what it used to be,” he says. “Multiple offers are pretty much the norm if the house is priced correctly. It’s the law of supply and demand.”
Indeed, he says, if a house has been on the market for ten days without an offer, Realtors often wonder what’s wrong.
Lynn Watkins, a broker with McColly Real Estate Crown Point, is seeing the same continuing surge in the demand for housing.
“When I look at sales of homes during the last quarter of the year compared to the first quarter of this year,” she says, “It hasn’t slowed down as far as I’m concerned. People are calling constantly.”
The market is very hot right now, says Cathy Higgins, a broker with McColly Real Estate in Schererville.
“There are multiple contracts on most properties,” she continues. “Inventory is down and most buyers are paying list price or above to be able to buy the home. If the home is in excellent condition and updated, they can sell in a day or so.”
Part of the increase says Rogowski is driven by the number of Illinois residents crossing the state line to hunt for homes.
“I put another home in Schererville on the market for $395,000, the owners thought that was too much but I said I can get that for you,” he says. “In a short time, we had four offers, two were $10,000 over the asking price and all four were from people living in Illinois. That home sold for cash as well.”
According to data from the tax year 2017-2018, 4,300 residents moved from Cook County to Lake County.
“One reason is that real estate taxes across the border, regardless of where it is, are triple what the taxes are in Northwest Indiana,” says Rogowski. “The hottest markets are Lake and Porter counties and they’re unbelievable. I haven’t had a day off since February. Of the last 30 or so offers I’ve looked at for homes, 75% or more are from Illinois.”
Cities just across the Illinois state line are also popular.
Higgins, who is a licensed broker in Illinois, says she’s seeing an increase in sales in Lansing and Lynwood.
Like the housing market in our area, McColly Real Estate continues to grow. More than 45 years ago, Ron McColly opened a four-person office in Merrillville. Now, McColly has 470+ broker associates, 100 employees and 23 offices. According to the RealTrends 500 Broker Report®, the McColly Real Estate ranked no. 161 nationally for its closed transaction sides for year-end 2018.
Businesses relocating to Northwest Indiana also add to the growing demand for housing says Watkins.
“Businesses draw new people into an area who want to live near where they work,” she continues, noting that two new companies, HTI Logistics Company, Inc. based in Louisville and Manhattan Mechanical of Manhattan, Illinois are setting up shop in East Chicago. That’s one of the reasons the city has opened Fitzsimmons Redevelopment. A 19,000-square-foot multi-use residential and retail space located in the North Harbor district at 139th and Main Street right across the street from Unity Plaza and close to such amenities as the beach, I-94, two casinos, shopping and medical facilities.
“It has two commercial units and seven residential units,” says Watkins about the four 3-bedroom, 2.5 bath condos and three 2-bedroom, 2.5 bath townhomes that vary in size from 1,881-square-foot to 2,063-square-foot. Retail space encompasses 4,042-net square-foot and is ready for development.
Watkins notes now is the time to buy in order to take advantage of East Chicago’s first time homeowners’ program that provides $25,000 for those buying one of the condos or townhomes.
But though new projects like this help provide more home buying options, there’s still a significant scarcity of housing stock.
“Developers can’t build fast enough to keep up with the demand,” says Rogowski.
The iconic Marktown, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, in East Chicago has ended its decline says Watkins, noting that she has a new listing there and that investors are moving into what is a unique urban planned worker community dating back to 1917.
Higgins offers recommendations for both buyers and sellers.
“As a buyer, expect to pay full price or over if it's a home you want,” she says. “As a seller, make sure your home sparkles! To get top dollar, it must look top dollar. It must be clean and updated. It must be free of clutter. Homes with clutter tend to look smaller & not taken care of. It must have some curb appeal. Trim the bushes, edge the walkway.”
Rogowski says even though people talk about the real estate bubble bursting at some point as it did in 2006 and 2007 leading to the 2008 bust, he sees the situation today as being very different.
“Back then, people were purchasing homes with 100% financing and no down payment, which left several homebuyers upside down / with no equity,” he recalls. However, it’s different this time around.”