WATERLOO — The housing market in Waterloo-Cedar Falls could use a few more houses.
A shortage of listings is holding down a housing market waiting to bust out in the spring, local real estate officials said. But they see “a perfect storm” coming with new housing developments near schools in both cities.
First-quarter home sales in Waterloo were the highest in at least four years and have steadily increased each year, according to figures provided by Mary Shileny, executive officer of the Northeast Iowa Board of Realtors.
A total of 178 homes were sold in Waterloo in the first quarter of the year. That’s a slight increase from the 170 homes sold for the same period a year ago, but continued steady growth. Over four years, from the first quarter of 2015 to now, home sales increased 28 percent.
The sales might be even better with more inventory, Shileny said. The rise in sales occurred even though the inventory of homes available has decreased 10 percent over the same period.
Cedar Falls sees a more uneven picture, but again, Shileny said, that market also is constrained by a drop in inventory. A total of 78 homes were sold in Cedar Falls for the first quarter — down by 26 percent after hitting a four-year high of 106 for the first quarter of 2017.
“Lower than 2017, but higher than 2016 (63) and close to 2015 at 94. Looks like a bit of a roller coaster ride,” Shileny noted. “Inventory has dropped consistently for the last four years in Cedar Falls,” from 338 in 2015 to 267 now — a 21 percent decrease.
That may be about to change, particularly across the southern part of the metro area, in both Waterloo and Cedar Falls.
“Activity is brisk in the subdivisions surrounding the new school west of Hudson Road in Cedar Falls,” said Gale Bonsall of Oakridge Realtors, referring to the new Bess Streeter Aldrich Elementary School. “Permits and sales are occurring at a brisk pace, with some selling prior to being completed. Custom homes, those that are pre-sold prior to construction, as well as speculation homes, are quickly filling in the subdivision.”
In Waterloo, a proposed housing development around Orange Elementary School, Paradise Estates, would be the largest single home development in Waterloo in 30 years, Mayor Quentin Hart has said. It is still pending city approvals.
The activity near the Cedar Falls school could herald things to come in Waterloo near Orange.
“To have the stars align that there would be a supply of land that could be developed this close to a brand new school ... is not only rare, it has created a real boon for sales of these new homes,” Bonsall said of the development near Aldrich Elementary, constituting “a perfect storm for these developments, as well as the entire Cedar Valley real estate market.”
Overall activity is already picking up heading into spring, Shileny said.
“Historically, this is the season when home sales increase, and this year is showing to be no different than the past four years,” she said. “The cooler spring weather may be keeping sellers from putting their homes on the market, thus limiting the number of homes for buyers to purchase. Realtors report a hot market with back-to back-showings resulting in multiple offers on properties.
“It may not feel like spring outside but it’s heating up in the real estate market,” she said.