HANCOCK COUNTY — When Matt Ottinger and his fiancée began looking for their first home in Greenfield, they hoped to take their time, searching for the right blend of amenities and affordability in an attractive area.
Not the case.
The couple set their hearts on the first house they saw, a small three-bedroom home on the west side of Greenfield. And after hearing how high demand has grown for local housing, they knew they had to act swiftly.
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Fearful of losing the perfect house, Ottinger and his fiancée, Katie Coffin, bought the house days after touring it — a trend real estate agents are noticing across central Indiana.
The majority of homes listed for sale are off the market within about a week, likely because the supply of available homes is down from previous years, local real estate agents say. And the average selling price has jumped from about $140,000 in 2013 to $170,000 this year. That’s a stark contrast to market trends just a few years ago.
With fewer homes and a significant increase in prices, homebuying today can be a challenge, said Mark Dudley, owner of Re/Max Realty Group in Greenfield.
The price of Hancock County homes sold in April — the most recent data available — swelled nearly 20 percent higher from what was sold in April 2013, according to reports from the MIBOR Realtor Association, which monitors housing data throughout central Indiana.
And the conditions aren’t unique to Hancock County.
In Boone County, the average home price in April was 17 percent higher than the same time last year. Johnson and Madison counties aren’t far behind with 14 and 9 percent increases, respectively, for the same one-year period.
And while demand has grown, supply has shrunk locally. Just 143 homes were listed on the market in April of this year, about 20 fewer than in 2013, MIBOR data shows.
“Inventory is nearly nonexistent,” Dudley said. “It’s a good market for sellers, but it’s very different for buyers.”
Ottinger, who moved to the area in May, saw firsthand how tight the local market had become when he prepared to sell his former home on the west side of Indianapolis.
He first tried to sell the house in 2013 but pulled the listing after he didn’t receive any offers.
When he listed the house in March, though, he had four offers within the first five days; the property sold shortly after.
The demand for new homes has picked up significantly in recent years.
While construction at several local subdivisions sat idle for years, the market is making a major turnaround, said local builder Tom Joyner.
Since taking over home construction inside Summerset subdivision on the east side of Greenfield a year ago, Joyner has sold 15 homes, 11 of which are almost fully built.
The neighborhood, which was designed as a sizeable subdivision with more than 50 homes when plans were approved in the early 2000s — before the housing crisis — has only had a dozen homes built during the last decade.
But Joyner said the market is ripe.
As soon as construction wraps up, he expects to begin work on another set of homes in the neighborhood, Joyner said.
“Given the pace we’ve seen so far, we anticipate to see that continuing across the season,” he said.
The demand for homes is widespread across the county, but certain regions are hotter than others, Dudley said.
Homes on the western edge of the county, particularly in McCordsville and New Palestine, are in high demand, he said.
But houses in less densely populated regions of the county, especially in Eastern Hancock School Corp.’s district, are among the hardest to come by, Dudley said.
The trend holds true for homes across a wide price range, Dudley said. Demand for homes priced from less than $100,000 all the way up to $250,000 are selling at a rapid rate. While the market is a little softer for homes priced above $300,000, demand is still strong, he said.
To keep up with the glut of prospective homebuyers, builders are doing what they can to catch up, local planning officials say.
In Greenfield, officials have issued permits for 29 new homes since Jan. 1 — more than double the number that were issued for the same time period in 2015, said Donna Butler, planning department permit technician.
In McCordsville, the fastest growing community in Hancock County, which has gained about 2,500 residents since the 2010 census, new home construction is also booming.
In 2015, the town’s building and planning department issued permits for 147 homes in 2015, posting solid growth over the previous year’s total of 132, town planning director Ryan Crum has said.
Housing values across central Indiana have jumped in recent months. Here’s a look at average home sale prices for several nearby counties between April and the same month last year.
Hancock: 10 percent increase, $170,000
Johnson: 14 percent increase, $189,000
Madison: 9 percent increase, $101,000
Marion: 3 percent decrease, $147,000
SOURCE: MIBOR April Housing report