Sugar Camp Horse Ride

by Nick Molnar on March 20, 2014 is relaunching a weekly series of photos from around the South Bend – Mishawaka – Granger and surrounding area.

Our first is of the Sugar Camp Days at Bendix Woods County Park.

Sugar Camp Horse Ride


January 2014 Sales

by Nick Molnar on February 18, 2014

After a long delay, the blog is active again.

Since our last posts on market conditions, the systems used by area Realtors have changed. Moving forward, I’ll post on sales in St Joseph County, Indiana, and not those posted in the “Greater South Bend – Mishawaka MLS” It’s a subtle but significant difference. So I’m not posting the long term graph this month. But I will work to recreate it based on this new criteria in the future.

Here are the January 2014 sales that hit the MLS. Click the icon for a larger image.

Real estate sales for St. Joseph County Indiana in January 2014
Real estate sales for St. Joseph County Indiana in January 2014


And if you’re making decisions on real estate in South Bend, Mishawaka, Granger, or Notre Dame, Indiana, and want professional guidance and answers to your questions, hit our contact page.



We are halfway through 2013.  And sales are “up” compared with recent years. But whether you’re a buyer waiting for lower prices or a seller hoping for a return to 2006, don’t break out the champagne just yet. Long term trends aren’t clear and it will likely be a bumpy ride for some time yet: interest rates have spiked,  investors-banks-government agencies-and-the media are distorting markets, and many homeowners still owe more on property than they could clear if they had to sell today. My advice is unchanged: Be smart, do your homework, understand the niche market and plan for multiple potentialities.

Here are the figures from the Greater South Bend-Mishawaka Area MLS:

  • March: 251 closed sales, volume of ~ $24.9 million
  • April: 279 closed sales, volume of ~$32.6 million (edited from previously reported numbers due to late input of some closed sales)
  • May: 334 closed sales, volume of ~$43.8 million
  • June: 319 closed sales, volume of ~$45.3 million


Real estate sales volume by month

January 2001 – June 30, 2013



Only January 2010 – June 30, 2013










Every sale recorded in the Greater South Bend – Mishawaka MLS for March, April, May and June 2013:


Sales at all prices


All real estate sales March, Arpil, May, June 2013 - South Bebnd, Granger, Notre Dame, Mishawaka and surrounding areas


Sales up to $300k
(this includes greater than 95% of closed sales)

All real estate sales to $300k, March, Arpil, May, June 2013 - South Bebnd, Granger, Notre Dame, Mishawaka and surrounding areas







These are useful statistics to get an idea of the overall market in and near South Bend. But before you buy be sure you drill down to a tighter data set.

Knowing that sales are up in the South Bend area is not enough to be an informed player in the market. You need to know what has happened within a half a mile, on the next block, and in the house two doors down. And you should know the trends and why that part of the larger market is performing well or poorly. Then you can make smart decisions. Call me if you want a more specific analysis.




64 reasons your house may not be selling

by Nick Molnar on March 20, 2013

64 Reasons Your Home May Not Be Selling

  1. It smells like cat
  2. It smells like dog
  3. It’s overpriced
  4. It isn’t in the MLS
  5. You have no photos
  6. You have only one exterior photo
  7. Your photos is from another season – a snowy photo in June advertising
  8. Your exterior front photo shows one big tree with a hint of house behind it
  9. Your bathroom photo shows a corner of sink and the toilet
  10. Your bathroom photo has the toilet seat up
  11. Your photos are pixelated
  12. The basement is dank
  13. The house is dirty
  14. Your agent doesn’t respond to showing requests
  15. You don’t accommodate showings
  16. You don’t clean or prepare for showings
  17. You stay at the house during showings
  18. You leave an aggressive pet in the house during showings
  19. The house is overfull of furniture, toys, clothes, and “stuff” and potential buyers can’t see the house
  20. Bad luck
  21. Your school district has low test scores
  22. You don’t have central air
  23. You don’t have a dishwasher
  24. Your kitchen is closed off from the living space
  25. You’re selling a condo in a failed and half-built project
  26. You’re selling a spec house in a failed and mostly-empty subdivision
  27. Your house lacks curb appeal
  28. You’re at a price point that excludes most potential buyers in your city
  29. It was a meth house
  30. It’s falling down
  31. The neighbor’s house is falling down
  32. The neighbor’s yard has junked cars and trash everywhere
  33. The neighbor has frightening dogs
  34. The taxes and HOA/condo fees are high
  35. It smells like smoke
  36. You’re a day-sleeper and have painted all the windows black
  37. Frequent gunshots are heard during showings
  38. It has a “spooky dungeon-like” basement
  39. Obvious fire damage
  40. Mushrooms growing in basement
  41. Crazy neighbors harass potential buyers
  42. Your homemade indoor shooting range isn’t to code
  43. Your collection of 300 decorative Elvis plates distracts buyers from home’s best features
  44. No for sale sign
  45. 2×4 appears to be propping up joists in basement
  46. Built-in microwave in bathroom puzzles buyers
  47. Your house costs twice what anything similar has sold for recently
  48. Your valuing your $30k sunroom at your cost
  49. Wallpaper
  50. The fusebox is the most recent update in the house
  51. Fleas
  52. Your floors bounce
  53. Your floors slope
  54. Raccoons in the attic
  55. Carpet in the bathrooms
  56. You don’t negotiate
  57. Newer development is pulling away your buyers
  58. No yard
  59. Ugly yard
  60. Backs to industrial lot
  61. Next to Wal Mart
  62. Errors in property info – “0” square feet, incorrect bedroom count, etc.
  63. Your agent has a reputation that makes other agents prefer to not work with her
  64. Road noise

That’s a long list, and that’s off the top of my head. But if you categorized them, you’d quickly find there are really just a few groups:

  • Price: self explanatory
  • Presentation: Can buyer’s find the house is for sale and does it look great online?
  • Preparation: Is the house clean, de-cluttered and free of the “ick factor?” Does it smell good? Does it appear to be taken care and give a good impression when you walk up to and into the house?

The most effective way to sell a house is to

  • get a whole house inspection and fix the problems it uncovers
  • hire a stager and act on their advice
  • obtain an appraisal and price it at or below the appraised value
  • hire a real estate agent who sells in your area
  • use a professional photographer

Those five people will help you avoid ending up unsold and on a list like this. But it many cases it’s not practical or possible. In those cases, be sure you’re addressing the same concepts of price, preparation and presentation. If you have to pick just one professional to help you, go with a real estate agent, but only if it’s one who you are confident can reasonably stand in for the others.


Pick your favorite news source and odds are it’s promoting a story of a housing recovery this Spring. Another not-too-risky bet is that it called the drop in house values and the slowdown in sales the “correction” of a bubble.

But it can’t go both ways. If the crash was a correction, then prices headed back where they were is re-inflating a bubble. Using terms that conflict with themselves is just one symptom of the news media repeating press releases undigested.

And there are strong forces pushing a ‘recovery’ in housing prices:

  • record low interest rates,
  • diverting of homes that would hit the market to >100% LTV refi programs,
  • delayed foreclosures eased by government bailouts of banks,
  • low-downpayment government-insured loans that the open market won’t offer,
  • REO to rental funds buying now to rent and then sell/IPO in a few years in anticipation of higher prices,
  • Cities including South Bend spending millions to demolish abandoned homes
  • And the drumbeat of “buy now or pay more later” that I thought disappeared in 2008.

But the most problematic element is that, after the most catastrophic housing market in 30 years or more, thinking has not changed. A rational view of the housing market is that any change benefits someone and hurts a different group:

  • Prices go up? —-> good for owners, bad for buyers.
  • Prices go down? —-> good for new buyers, bad for sellers.
  • Prices are stable? —> good for communities, banks, and long term investors, bad for flippers.
  • Prices fluctuate wildly —> good for quick turn traders, bad for most everyone else.

The unspoken idea that constant appreciation of real estate prices is to be desired and is a positive outcome is driven by groups who benefit from rising prices; banks, real estate agents and established homeowners.

Early Spring sales in 2013 are not wildly better than in recent years. February sales volume is down 2013 compared to 2012. Even if they were up, it pays to be cautious making 30 year decisions on two months data and to ignore anything the mass media reports on real estate. There is probably no market more manipulated than the housing market, and it pays to think your decisions through carefully after getting advice from someone who knows the relevant area -think blocks not cities.

Here are the numbers from the Greater South Bend – Mishawaka MLS for sales 9/1/2012 – 2/28/2013. That bring us up to date on this blog.

  • September 2012: 254 sales for ~26.9 million in volume
  • October 2012: 270 sales for ~28.5 million in volume
  • November 2012: 241 sales for ~30 million in volume
  • December 2012: 206 sales for ~24.5 million in volume
  • January 2013: 163 sales for ~15.3 million in volume
  • February 2013: 181 sales for ~14.8 million in volume

Here are the graphs:

All sales prices at a glance, coded by type of financing:

Sales-Sept2012-Feb2013-Scatter [320x200]


For clarity, the same graph excluding the 28 sales over $350k:

Scatter-9_12-2_13-to-350k [320x200]


For context,  the long term sales graph:


Long-Term-Sales-Graph [320x200]


And that same graph showing only Q1 for 2008-13

Q1-sales-2008-13 [320x200]


So if the market overall is still anemic, where is the media finding stories of homes selling in days with multiple offers? They are finding the markets with an undersupply of homes for sale, those lacking a Realtor’s “inventory.” And it’s true, there are spaces where it is good to be a seller right now. In Granger, if you have a decent house without any major flaws (on a highway, under a power transmission tower, with a failed septic system, etc) that is in the $250-300k range, you’ll probably sell it.  Here’s my reasoning:

Granger easily supports that price point (graph below does not show the few sales over $1m, but does use them in calculating the trendline)

46530-sales-long-term [320x200]


And sales in zipcode 46530 at the 250-300k price point have decreased from the boom, but seem to be on stable footing

46530-sales-250-300 [320x200]

  • 2008: 48 sales
  • 2009: 34 sales
  • 2010: 39 sales
  • 2011: 44 sales
  • 2012: 55 sales

So, it’s uncertain but reasonable to guess that  about 44 will sell in 2013 (the average of the post boom figures). And there are 21 for sale today, with 2 closed sales this year and 4 pending sales. That’s 17 short of expected sales. More buyers looking for a type of house than sellers selling that type of house = few days on the market and selling near list prices.

But that setup is particular to specific niche markets. If you are selling a farmhouse on 5 acres or a townhouse near Notre Dame or 1920’s house in South Bend you might as well use stats from San Francisco as those from Granger.

If you’re buying or selling or just trying to better understand real estate, don’t follow the TV news. You won’t get good information in a 30 second segment put together by a reporter contracted to produce ten stories a week. And it won’t be specific to your situation. Do your homework, or hire someone to do it for you. The real estate market is no longer moving as a single block. It is fractured so that some markets lack inventory and some lack buyers.

More frequent posting to commence. Have questions? Need advice? Hit the comments or find me with your favored messaging system,