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Real Estate Guide 2007
Analysis by region
National statistics are meaningful, but in real estate "location, location, location" means local trends trump all.
Analysis by region
Midwest: Affordable homes but few jobs

The Midwest leads the nation in offering the most home for the dollar, enabling just about anyone with a job to buy a house.

The Housing Affordability Index, which is compiled regularly by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows the heartland at the top of the affordability list with some of the best prices in the country and pay rates that are "typically higher than in the South" says Lawrence Yun, a senior economist for the National Association of Realtors.

"You can get a large-sized home for under $200,000," he says. "There's much more value to be had in the Midwest."

NAR regional vice president David Ledebuhr agrees.  "The affordability index is very high in the Midwest," says Ledebuhr. "You get a lot more and aren't a house slave."

And this year, buyers will see "more opportunities and choices," says Ledebuhr, also the owner of Musselman Realty in East Lansing, Mich.

"We have people coming in to look at properties, and they're looking at 40 properties just because they can," says Walter Baczkowski, CEO of the Metropolitan Consolidated Association of Realtors in Troy, Mich.

In areas that have suffered economically, sellers are trying to sweeten the pot with concessions.

In the Detroit metro area, seller concessions will vary depending on just how badly someone wants to sell, says Baczkowski. He's seen everything from sellers paying points to offering a set amount for repairs. 

But while a typical salary in the Midwest will buy more than the median house, that's the rub: One of the reasons that many areas of the Midwest are so affordable is that some areas have been struggling with layoffs and job losses.

"In the Midwest, you can get a large house at a decent price -- it's just a matter of jobs," says Yun.

"Michigan is losing jobs," he says. "And in Indiana and Ohio, jobs are just not coming." Higher than normal foreclosure rates in the region -- a sign that home owners are stretched beyond their financial limits -- exacerbate the problem by adding to an already crowded market.

-- Posted: March 8, 2007
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