The housing market in Forest Lake has turned a corner, with existing home sales rising to levels not seen since the housing boom in 2006, according to real estate analysts and city officials.
"What's driving some of the demand is the aging baby boomer population. But, also the millennial generation, the younger folks who are entering the workforce now and are thinking of renting or buying a house for the first time," said Barbara Dacy, executive director of the Washington County Housing and Redevelopment Authority, which advocates for affordable housing in the county.
Home sales, which include single-family homes, townhouses and condominiums, have surged this year, mimicking a trend across Washington County. The number of units sold through July was 194, up from 144 through July 2012, according to data from the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors.
"The other piece about Forest Lake [is] some of the other amenities: the lake itself. There is a nice downtown. You have county services there. There is a brand-new library," Dacy said, adding that "the housing in the Forest Lake area tends to be more affordable" than other areas in the county.
The median sales price rose 14 percent year over year, from $164,950 for July 2012 to $188,000 for July 2013, according to the MAAR data. For July 2009, near the height of the housing bubble, the median price was $150,000. The rise in sales prices is largely attributable to "the product mix, because … the traditional market is far and away the biggest segment of what's selling right now," MAAR public affairs director Julia Parenteau said.
Median prices vary across Washington County. In Woodbury, the median price of a home sold was up 12.5 percent, from $228,873 for July 2012 to $257,500 for July 2013, the data show. Stillwater and Cottage Grove saw more modest year-over-year increases of 2.2 percent and 7.7 percent, respectively. Countywide, the median price increased 13.3 percent to $213,000 since July 2012, according to figures.
Homes are being snapped up more quickly. Properties sat on the market an average of 116 days for July, the lowest year-over-year average since at least 2007, according to the MAAR data.
Meanwhile, foreclosures are down across the city at 39 through July from 56 the previous year.
Rick Estes, sales manager at Coldwell Banker Burnet who works in Forest Lake and White Bear Lake, said local buyers are tiptoeing back to the market, spurred in part by interest rates that are still historically low but slightly higher than they were a year ago.
"My agents feel good about the market. They're seeing good activity, and they're feeling a lot better about the market. And they feel that it's stayed strong all summer," Estes said.