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Low housing inventory in many Michigan markets – good for sellers, frustrating for buyers

OK it sold, but for how much?
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
OK it sold, but for how much?

If you’re having a hard time finding a home to buy right now, you are not alone.  The supply of houses for sale in many markets across the state are hitting near all-time lows.

Interest rates remain low, but there are not enough homes available to meet the demand.

“In most recent history I can’t recall ever being in a market like this,” said Terry Westbrook, president of the Grand Rapids Association of Realtors.  He’s been selling homes in Grand Rapids for 40 years.

The supply of homes in Grand Rapids hasn’t been this small in a decade.

This is how crazy it is; a few weeks ago Westbrook was putting up a for sale sign out in front of one of his clients homes.

“I’m literally on my hands and knees in the front yard and a guy pulls up and says ‘I want to look at the house’ and before the end of the day he owned it,” Westbrook said.

Westbrook says the backlog of foreclosures and short sales have tapered off, plus interest rates remain at historic lows.

“Anyone that’s qualified to buy a house is out there looking,” Westbrook said.

Carol Griffith is president of the Michigan Association of Realtors. She says it’s not just Grand Rapids where this phenomenon is occurring.

Griffith says move-in ready homes that are reasonably priced are getting snapped up quickly.

“It’s hard sometimes or sort of frustrating for buyers because the inventory is low but at the same time we’re glad that some of the hardest hit markets, in terms of the foreclosures and short sales, have diminished,” Griffith said.

Griffith says supply is tightest in the lower price range, where most first time homebuyers are looking.

She says some sellers who owed more money than their homes were worth a few years ago are finding that’s not the case anymore.

And she says new construction is starting to pick up a bit.

“In most cases, here in Livingston County, those lots that were sort of abandoned by previous builders are now being picked up because they can purchase a lot ten cents on the dollar,” Griffith said.

Both Westbrook and Griffith expect the market will stay pretty stable over the coming months.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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