Starter homes a major need for Storm Lake

Monday, November 25, 2002

Home market: advantage, buyer

There's a need for starter homes in Storm Lake for first-time homebuyers, while other cities in the county see a balance of sellers and buyers.

Many realtors working in the area see on a daily basis exactly what the needs are for interested homebuyers.

Housing studies done by the county and several cities in the county, including Storm Lake, show a slightly rising population for the area over the next decade and likewise, an increasing need for housing.

The county study shows that because of Storm Lake's increasing minority population, an increase in younger families is also expected. A study specifically for the City of Storm Lake found affordable housing to be a large need.

Dick Schmidt, broker and owner of Homestead Realty in Alta, said there isn't any one style of housing people are searching for there.

"Well, people are interested in a little bit of everything, depending on what they can afford," he said.

However, in Storm Lake there is a high level of interest in first-time homes.

"There's a lot interest in entry-level property - lots of first time homebuyers looking for something to buy in the Storm Lake area, particularly for younger families," said Margie Robinson of Century 21 The Professional Group.

Interest rates and first-time homebuyer programs can make home ownership that much more available to many young families, she said.

And current interest rates make home ownership that much more affordable, but that isn't causing a surge in buyers.

"People who are walking in aren't coming in because interest rates are low," Robinson said. "They have a need or are ready to change houses - family size has gone up or down, kids have gone to college, or they've outgrown their house because they've had a new baby."

There is a sufficient amount of housing stock for consumers, Robinson said, but there are some areas with increased need.

"We're probably short on new construction - there is no spec building going on for newer homes," she said. Most new home construction is custom home design.

Approximately 37.5 percent of the county's housing was built in 1939 or before, according to the housing study done by the county. The biggest housing booms after that were in the 1950s and again in the 1970s.

While some may seek out an older style home, there are others interested in new construction.

"Nearly every person that comes in is looking for something different," Robinson said.

In Alta, the standard three-bedroom, ranch-style home with an attached garage is in demand. But often times it's more than just the house that sells a buyer.

"We've always had a good demand for homes here in Alta," Schmidt said. "People want to buy in a nice little town with fine churches and a good school system."

Robinson also encourages people to check out current interest rates, something a broker can assist with.

"It's surprising that for an old mortgage at 8 percent, how much more house you can buy with 6 percent interest," Robinson said. "It's a good time for people to take a look at mortgage rates and see where they are at."

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