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Existing-home sales market surging 15 percent across Indiana

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Nissa Ricafort and her husband figured their ranch-style home in northeast Indianapolis would take two to three months to sell, but the weekend it hit the market the couple had 17 showings and accepted an offer for the full $185,000 asking price.

"It was the most insane thing I ever experienced," said Ricafort, a family law attorney. "But a good insane. I closed on the sale of one home, then closed on the other four days later and moved in between. It's really worked out great."

The housing market has spiked so much in some places in the Indianapolis area that real estate agents are turning to Facebook and going door-to-door looking for prospective sellers because of a shortage of houses for sale. Sales are up overall statewide, with Indiana reporting 68,015 homes sold from March 2012 through February 2013, a 15.2-percent increase over the same period a year earlier. For the first two months of 2013, sales were up 20.5 percent. Home sales have improved on a year-over-year basis for 20 consecutive months.

"In the major markets, everything seems to be very, very busy," said Kevin Kirkpatrick, president of the Indiana Association of Realtors. "We don't have enough inventory for the number of buyers that are out there right now. That's what's causing prices to go up. They're not skyrocketing, but things are moving in the right direction."

The median cost of a home in Indiana is up 4.7 percent, from $112,750 to $118,000.

Toby Muhlhofer, an Indiana University assistant professor of finance who specializes in real estate, said it's not surprising the housing market in Indianapolis is leading the comeback.

"It makes sense because Indianapolis is where Indiana's economic output is centered," he said.

Other areas also are seeing improvement.

"It's still very clearly a buyer's market, but that pendulum is beginning to swing and I think consumers are noticing that," said Peter Novak Jr., chief executive of Greater Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors.

Some buyers are having trouble even finding homes to look at. Tonya Sanderson of Fishers said she's been looking nearly a year for a four-bedroom house with a three-car garage and a yard big enough for a pool in the school district she lives in, but there have been few houses to look at.

"We really thought by now there would be a lot of houses being listed and we'd have a lot of options, but we're not seeing that," Sanderson said.

She said she's considering putting letters in mailboxes of homes she likes to see if people are interested in selling.

Cindy Marchant, a real estate agent since 2001 in Fishers, said home sales in the suburb are up 48 percent from a year ago. She said it's the best market she's seen. She attributes the improvement to pent-up demand, low interest rates, improving consumer confidence and homeowners becoming frustrated last year at the lack of sales lowering their prices.

"It was the perfect storm, but no one was jumping because everyone was afraid because so many people were unemployed," she said. "It was hard to go out on a limb and buy a house. But I think now, people are ready to make a move."

Kirkpatrick worries, though, that the resurgence is fragile.

"If something happens with North Korea or something happens with oil prices, it could knock it off real quickly," he said.

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