In Indiana, foreclosures “happen” through a sheriff’s sale. It’s a public auction and proceeds are paid to the property’s lienholders. The sales prices rarely cover the judgment to the bank holding the property’s first mortgage, so all proceeds commonly go to that bank only. In those cases, the sale generally clears the other liens on the property so it can be sold.

In St. Joseph County 90 – 95% of the sales are “won” by attorneys bidding for the banks holding the first mortgage. These aren’t “sales” in the common sense of the word. When the lienholding bank wins the auction, they essentially buy the property from themselves. The bank’s attorney pays the sheriff, who pays the money back to the bank as first lienholder. It’s a dance to scrub the other liens.

Given that, sheriff’s sale are a convenient way to track the number of foreclosures in an area, but a poor way to see what they sell for when they leave the bank’s hands.

In St. Joseph County, the Sheriff’s Department has sold more than 8,500 properties at its weekly sheriff’s sale over the last six years.

Here is the breakdown of the numbers, provided by the Sheriff’s Department:

Year Number of Sales
2014 926
2013 1,429
2012 1,418
2011 1,165
2010 1,572
2009 2,004


8,514 foreclosures. For context, there were 18,282 residential sales in St. Joseph County in the MLS in that same time period. While there is considerable overlap, the numbers make the point: foreclosures have been a significant part of our market.

Foreclosures have a community wide impact. Obviously the occupants and neighbors, but other homebuyers and sellers, landlords, investors, city departments, schools all feel them. And the only information the sheriff’s department has available is the count above. It’s remarkable that there isn’t more data on it.

Indiana is a public disclosure state for sales prices, so it’s possible to recreate much of this data. Skipping through the details, by identifying 75+ variants of “St. Joseph County Sheriff” as the seller, I’ve compiled specifics on almost 5,000 foreclosures. While that’s not comprehensive, it’s a “good enough” to way to further investigate them as a group.

And I used it to tackle a question I’ve had for a while, “What’s the final outcome of these properties, especially those that sell at a very low price? Are they fixed and sold? Rented? Demolished? Do they sit empty for years?”

To tackle it, I broke out the 19 foreclosure sales I found under $10k for 2013.

location of foreclosures under 10kdetails of foreclosures under 10k

And researched them using the MLS and public records sites and making a few educated guesses. As near as I can tell and with fair confidence, it appears that 1-2 years after foreclosure,

  • Five are owner occupied
  • Four are listed for sale now with Realtors in the MLS
  • Four are investor owned
  • Three were donated to Habitat for Humanity
  • Three are bank owned and not listed for sale

I find this encouraging. I had suspected most were not financially viable rehab projects. If half or more of the foreclosed homes in the worst shape can be recycled into homes people want to live in, that is a positive indicator for the impacted cities and neighborhoods, even if it’s a slow process getting them back into use.

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HGTV is a major influence on how popular culture thinks of real estate and helps shape popular design trends with shows that include Love It Or List It, Property Brothers and House Hunters. They’ve made my job easier by giving buyers a script to follow when looking at homes and bringing entertainment and enthusiasm to real estate sales. They now even publish a magazine. But they are not statisticians or investigative reporters.

The HGTV magazine recently reported that house price appreciation in South Bend is “the sharpest increase in the United States” at 26.8%.


HGTV clip


It’s an impressive figure that just missed making a lot of marathoners smile and it is getting a lot of attention locally.  But it doesn’t fit with what I see looking at houses and property sales here everyday: If you bought a house here a year ago for $200k,  you’re probably not going to get $253,600 for it today unless there are some very special circumstances. So I had to look further into the figure.

HGTV cited the National Association of Realtors (NAR) as its source. When I couldn’t find a press release from NAR, I contacted them for greater detail. The 26.8% rate quoted is the year-over-year increase in the median price of sales from the first fiscal quarter (Jan-March) of 2013 compared to the first quarter of 2014. The lag is likely due to the lead time between a magazine article being written and the publication hitting the bookstore.

NAR source data


That means the technical answer is that yes, that’s the calculated appreciation and HGTV is not wrong. But they’re not quite right either, the 26.8% figure requires the following explanatory notes:

  • This data is from the census defined statistical area or Core Based Statistical Area- CBSA 43780 – and not from the city limits of South Bend. It includes sales from South Bend, but also from Mishawka, Granger, Osceola, Lakeville, and parts of Michigan including Edwardsburg and Cassopolis.
  • The data is old, ending more than nine months ago in March 2014.
  • The data is sourced from the relevant MLS es. It’s probably the cleanest data set, but it does excludes many new construction and For Sale By Owner sales.

When I recreate the investigation with sales data for just South Bend, with data I manually pull from the same MLS, I  see that

for Q1 2013, there are

  • 366 sales
  • median sales price of 49k
  • 102 of the sales were for 25k or less.

And for Q1 2014, There are

  • 298 sales
  • median sales price at 70k
  • 65 of those sales were for 25k or less.

South Bend Real Estate Sales Q1 2013

South Bend Real Estate Sales Q1 2014












Simply, it means that if the data is for “South Bend” and not “South Bend and the nearby cities,” the bulk of the reason the prices went up was that were were a lot of low price sales in Q1 2013 and fewer of them in Q1 2014. It wasn’t because the house at 123 Main Street went from $100,000 to $127,000. The “mix” of homes sold changed, more than the values did.

So, the data is “true” if misleading. But interestingly, it also underreports the appreciation rate for the city of South Bend for the time period it uses when calculated in the same manner, which is +42.9%.

So it boosts South Bend real estate in a confused manner, making it seem that “wow, homes are increasing in value” not the more accurate “wow there were a lot of low price sales and those are becoming a smaller part of the market.” Both are good news, but quite different. And South Bend and its nearby cities and partners in the statistical area have enough great stories to tell that they don’t need muddled if positive statistics. I’ll try to cover a few of them in coming posts, they include: progress towards new mixed use buildings in central South Bend and Mishawaka, renovation of at least one midrise building in South Bend, a quick buildout of The Triangle neighborhood south of Notre Dame, and a significant rise in higher-end new construction homes in two South Bend neighborhoods.





Here is a brief breakdown of residential real estate sales in 2014 for St. Joseph County  – that is South Bend, Mishawaka, Granger, Osceola, Lakeville and a few other small towns – sourced from the relevant MLS. Those records cover most sales, but do miss a few builder sold new construction properties and a few for sale by owner transactions. Watch for more on those in coming months, but let’s start with the MLS data, which has information on the bulk of the sales.

There were 3,185 sales.
Prices ranged from $200 to $1,475,000.
The total volume of sales was $389,367,511.
The median sales price was $101,000
The average sales price was $122,250

That’s obviously a huge range and  a lot of sales. Here are some charts to help make sense of it:

All the sales in one chart, by type of financing

2014 real estate sales in Granger, South Bend Mishawaka and other pats of St. Joseph County Indiana

And for clarity, this is the same chart capped at $600k, it excludes the few highest price sales and give more space to the  bulk of the sales

2014 Real estate sales prices in St Joseph County, Indiana: for Notre Dame, South Bend, Mishawaka, Granger and surrounding areas, capped at $600k


Here are the sales by city/area for the most popular places:

South Bend

2014 Real estate sales in South Bend, Indiana


Granger: to $1m

2014 sales granger to 1million scatter

 Granger: all

2014 Real estate sales in Granger, Indiana



2014 real estate sales in Mishawka, Indiana


2014 Real estate sales for Osceloa, Indiana


That’s good baseline info for anyone looking to get a handle on sales prices in the South Bend – Granger – Mishawaka – Osceola area. I’ll post more detail and breakdown these and other facets of the South Bend area real estate market in coming posts. But if you can’t wait until then, or need personalized advice, send me a note .





February – March 2014 Sales

by Nick Molnar on April 17, 2014

Sales recorded in the South Bend area MLS for February and March 2014

February: 148 sales, $19.56 million total
March: 194 sales, $23.28 million total


South Bend Real Estate Sales January February 2014



18174 Baldwin Drive – An Entertainer’s Dream

by Nick Molnar on March 26, 2014

Pictures don’t do justice to this breathtaking, custom home on Gilmore Lake in desirable Bradford Shores. With approximately 6,000 finished square feet, a grand entrance with curved mahogany door, soaring ceilings with eleven and twelve foot heights, open floor plan and great water views, this home surpasses expectations.

Great room with significant hearth and large glass doors that look over the water and open to a wraparound deck.
Entertainer’s dream kitchen is open to the dining and living areas, and offers granite counters including an island with bar seating for six, walk in pantry, ample cabinetry and high end appliances including two built in ovens, six burner cooktop and integrated but hidden microwave.

Four bedrooms include two spacious master suites with separated tubs and tile shower enclosures. Two secondary bedrooms on the main floor share a full bath with dual sink vanity. Main floor master suite offers direct access to the deck and a walk-in closet with organization system.

The main floor is finished with a den / office with a custom detail ceiling, a guest’s powder room, large mudroom off the garage and laundry room with cabinetry.

The lower level walks out to a patio with water views and is finished to the same high standards as the main floor. It offers a bar, game room / second living room, home theater, cigar/poker room, and ample storage.
Paver drive, 3-car garage that is large enough for everything yet avoids becoming the focal point from the street, wraparound deck, paver patio and with an integrated seating and firepit.

Offered at $580,000. Contact Nick Molnar at 574-309-3758 / for more information.