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CEDAR FALLS — The housing market in the Cedar Valley continues at a remarkably steady pace, with building and realty officials predicting more of the same for 2019. Real estate experts also see a real opportunity for community growth in the Cedar Valley for subsequent years.

While the number of single family home starts dwindled somewhat, home prices continue a steady climb.

“Interest rates have bumped up some, but are still very competitive,” said Dick Robert, owner/broker with Cedar Falls Real Estate Co. “Inventories are down. The number of houses for sale was down a bit from 2017.”

Robert provided statistics from his 2018 real estate market summary, which indicated that in Waterloo, the number of single-family home sales decreased by 55 to 898, a decrease of 5.77 percent. In Cedar Falls, the number decreased by 52 to 509, or a 9.27 percent drop from 2017.

The average sale price in Waterloo increased 6.39 percent from $115,445 to $122,817. The average also increased in Cedar Falls from $219,263 in 2017 to $226,891, a gain of 3.48 percent.

Robert’s comparisons are based on each month’s residential sales — detached single-family homes only. They do not include condos or townhouses.

“Both housing markets are very strong and steady,” Robert said of Waterloo and Cedar Falls. “But inventory has been somewhat picked over pretty good. People have been lot more particular.”

Noel Anderson, Waterloo’s Community Planning & Development Director, provided information from the current fiscal year, which began July 1.

At the halfway mark of the fiscal year, Waterloo is at 40 new units.

“We had a total of 55 last year, so we have a great start to gain more housing units than last year,” he said. “We are anticipating over 100 new units this year, with the potential for over 120 with projects forthcoming.”

Cedar Falls building official Jamie Castle reported than in fiscal year 2018 there were 115 new homes with a valuation of $28,949,644. For the first half of fiscal year 2019, Cedar Falls has seen 58 new homes. That compares with 55 homes over that same time span from fiscal year 2018.

“We’ve had consistent growth with what’s available,” Castle said. “There’s more development coming, so I believe those numbers will remain consistent.”

She noted development near the new Streeter Elementary School is currently a hot area.

The housing market has been holding steady in the area for quite some time. Come spring, according to some officials, it could get a little crazy, because of a possible lack of inventory in some areas.

“To be in such a tight market so early in the season – it’s going to make for an interesting spring,” said Mary Shileny, CEO of the Northeast Iowa Regional Board of Realtors.

Days on the market is telling another interesting story.

Five years ago, Waterloo had 337 sales within the first 30 days on the market — or about 40 percent of homes available.

“Now we’re selling 55 percent in 30 days and another 15 percent in 90 days,” Shileny said.

In Cedar Fall over that time, approximately 60 percent of homes that hit the market sold within 30 days, with another 16 percent selling within 90 days. Five years ago, 30-day sales hovered around 50 percent.

“The numbers tell the story. We’re selling hot, fast and heavy,” Shileny said.

Kevin Fittro, vice president of Skogman Homes in Cedar Falls, also reported 2018 success.

“Last year, sales were up about 30 percent from 2017, and we’re looking for a better 2019. It’s a great feeling going into this year, because we will carry more homes into 2019. We’re 50 percent ahead in 2019 versus 2018.”

Helping builders, according to Fittro, is more consistent pricing on building materials such as lumber and siding.

“That’s allowing us to ease into the year a little bit better than in the past,” he said.

Bob Manning, executive officer for the Cedar Valley Home Builders Association, said there were approximately 351 new housing starts in the Cedar Valley area. That number is primarily single family homes and twin homes and does not include multiple units like 8-plexes.

On the demand side, the capacity is determined by availability of lots.

“Developers are going slowly, in some regards, so we hope they will speed up to develop lots.”

Adam Hunemuller, president of Cedar Valley Home Builders Association, noted the Cedar Valley has some great advantages to help keep a steady market.

“Waterloo and Cedar Falls are blessed with a strong mixture of medical, good schools and a strong government system,” he said. “The communities that seem to be doing the best in Iowa are those that have higher education in their communities. We are lucky enough to have two in UNI and Hawkeye Community College.”

Builders and remodelers have been very busy,” Manning said. “Remodeling actually is bigger than new housing, so the stats don’t take that into account.”

That aspect was reinforced by Wayne Magee, president of Magee Construction.

“We had an excellent year,” Magee said. “Obviously people wanted to spend money for upgrades.”

For residential remodeling, Magee saw an approximate 50 percent increase in 2018 over 2017.

“People seem to have a little more confidence in the direction the economy is going, he said.

Kugler Construction has been building six to 10 custom homes per year for the past 10 years. Bill Kugler Jr., general manager at Kugler Construction noted that 2019 has all the indications of being a very strong year for custom home building.

“There’s a very high volume of people interested in building right now,” he said. “The Cedar Valley has a good combination of an excellent workforce, good employers and is a good place to raise kids and provide good opportunities for people. It’s all just a win-win combination.”

Mike Taylor, with Lockard Realty, said that company also enjoyed a good 2018.

“It was one of our better years and 2019 is starting out good,” Taylor said. “Housing is still pretty strong, and the market is doing well in Iowa in general.”

As expected, due to increased development, downtown neighborhoods in Waterloo and Cedar Falls have become popular residential areas. That includes apartment and condo living.

“The restaurants and nightlife has helped,” said Taylor. “People like to be in walking distance of home.”

Fittro agreed.

“You’re seeing a very big push on apartment buildings and multiplexes in the downtown areas,” he said. “It’s a great move by those developers along the Greenhill Road areas and downtown with developers like Brent Dahlstrom and Mark Kittrell. They’ve done a wonderful job of fulfilling market needs when it comes to rentals, leasing and condos.”

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