While Buena Vista County's housing stock may be aging, it has continued to increase in value and has played a part in creating a strong market for sellers, according to a housing needs assessment recently completed by the county board of supervisors.
The housing needs assessment was conducted by Northwest Iowa Planning and Development out of Spencer. The county received a grant to cover the costs of the study, which will assist the county when seeking state and federal grants. Several communities also did assessments as well.
In a random sample of 130 single-family homes, all but one saw an increase in assessed value between 1994 and 1999, according to the study. In 1994 the total assessed value was $6,622,400 of the randomly selected homes. In 1999 that figure was $8,282,500.
"The average change of increase in home values between 1994 and 1999 is a 25.1 percent increase, or 5 percent a year," the report states.
All but one of the homes sampled had increased in value in those five years.
"This reflects on a general theme of rising property values in the county," the report says. "Another factor that gives weight to rising residential values and a strong market is the average yearly increase in assessed values of 5 percent per year from years 1994 to 1999. The Buena Vista County Assessor is required by law to assess 100 percent of actual value."
The study also looked at a sample of homes sold in 1999 and compared that with the assessed valuations. Assessed values are used to determine the taxes to be paid for the property, but rarely do assessed value and sale prices coincide, according to the study.
Between Jan. 1, 1999, and Dec. 31, 1999, there were 226 homes sold in Buena Vista County. Of those, 157 homes sold for more than their assessed values, 68 sold for less than their assessed valuation, and one home sold for more than its assessed valuation.
Housing units in Buena Vista County tend to sell on average at about 9.8 percent more than their assess value, the report states.
"This reflects the county has a strong housing market and may be due to a shortage of suitable housing units available," the report says. Other reasons for homes selling more than assessed value include remodeling or other home improvements and an increase in real estate market prices.
For the most part, the median year of construction for housing structures in the county is 1952.
The median year of construction for housing structures in the county is 1952. "The units are on average becoming older and in need of maintenance," the report says.
"Better than one-third or 37.5 percent of the county's housing was built in 1939 or before. The two time periods of 1950 to 1959 and 1970 to 1979 were significant construction periods in the county. These periods represent the second and third largest percentages of when housing structures were built in the county."
The most recent census shows 646 or 7.9 percent of the 8,145 housing units in the county are vacant. Most of those are for sale or vacant for another reason. The rental vacancy rate is 7.5 percent and only 2.1 percent for homeowners, according to the 2000 census.
"The Iowa Department of Economic Development recommends a vacancy rate of about 5 percent to allow for a proper supply-demand ratio, where there is a good balance of buyers and sellers," the report states.
The housing assessment says the county seems to have a tight housing market, which is good for sellers and rental property owners, "but it often drives up the cost of housing, making affordability out of reach for lower income households," the report continues.
By the year 2010 another 464 more housing units will be needed in the county, the report estimates.
The decision to rent or own a home is dependent on household income, and as income increases usually home ownership does.
State averages show that for single person households with low to moderate income roughly 50 percent rent and 50 percent own. For low to moderate families, about 30 percent rent and 70 percent own.
For middle income single person households, 20 will rent and 80 percent will own. About 10 percent of middle income families will rent and the rest will own.
The per capita personal income in Buena Vista County was $23,648 in 1999.