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Estherville housing a buyer’s market – Area real estate agents see good deals with lower interest rates

By Staff | Feb 1, 2008

While cities like San Jose, Calif., have been devastated by the subprime mortgage debacle, Estherville seems to be weathering tumbling housing prices fairly well, according to area real estate brokers and agents.

Just as housing prices soared on both coasts, housing locally that did not enjoy inflated increases has subsequently been protected from downturns in values.

“We didn’t enjoy the uptrends so fast and heavy as they did in the metro areas,” said Bill Leonard at Blum & Leonard Agency Inc. of Estherville.

Leonard said both buyers and lenders were more cautious locally, so they didn’t get caught in interest-only mortgages that banked on real estate values increasing.

As it turns out, now is as good of a time to buy as any in quite a while. With a total of a 1.25 percent cut in the Prime Rate over the past two weeks, buyers are now enjoying a 5 percent fixed rate — something that can save many thousands over the lifetime of a loan.

Maybe it’s those old-fashioned Iowa values that have helped. Leonard said as a point of fact that 75 percent of the ag land in Iowa is mortgage-free. “The high, high majority is family owned,” he said.

While ag land continues on the upswing, mainly thanks to demand for corn acres for ethanol production, there has been some slippage in residential values, but very little in the immediate Estherville area.

“It’s an excellent time to buy,” Leonard said, crediting local lenders with helping to keep the engine of the local economy running by keeping a steady supply of mortgage funds available.

“Our local lenders are our bread and butter and they’ve worked hard with their clientele,” Leonard said.

With those fixed rates just a little over 5 percent, Leonard sees this as a great time to buy a home.

“It’s crazy to see rates this low for this long of a period of time,” he said.

“The interest rates are absolutely excellent,” said Edith Clarken at Clarken Realtors. “So if you’re looking to buy now, it’s an excellent time.”

Clarken said the real estate market does seem to have slumped from about three years ago. However, the current market does seem to at least be steady.

Clarken noted that at the moment she was working on two sales, one at $200,000 and other at $18,000. “It’s either at the top or the bottom,” she said.

“It’s a buyer’s market right now because of the interest rates,” agreed Clarken’s husband and partner, Mike.

With real estate not changing hands as many times as it does on the coasts, it has remained as a more stable level, Mike said.

“Basic housing is still a major deal here compared to other places,” Mike said. He said the payments on a $60,000 home in Estherville are actually less than $450 a month with a 30-year note, less than the same home would cost in rent.

“Our top end of the market seems to be healthier than the bottom end,” Mike said, noting that many Estherville residents are ‘buying up’ within the community.

“We’re the best-kept secret in real estate in northwest Iowa,” Mike said.

Contact Michael Tidemann at (712) 362-2622 or mtidemann@esthervilledailynews.com and visit our photo sharing Web site at cu.esthervilledailynews.com