COLUMBIA CITY — When it comes to housing in Whitley County and much of northeast Indiana, it’s a seller’s market, and local residents are finding out the good and the bad of the aggressive time in housing sales.
Many people report selling their homes within days of listing them, as Whitley County appears to have more residents than it has housing.
“We listed our house on a Friday and immediately people were requesting showings,” said Shannon Pullen, who recently sold her home in Columbia City.
The Pullens weren’t prepared for such a quick response. By Sunday, they had their first showing and got a full-price offer.
“There were three other showings scheduled for Monday that had to be cancelled,” Pullen said.
Realtor Brad Minear, of Columbia City, said it’s been a seller’s market since 2016, and it hasn’t shown any signs of letting up.
“I’ve been doing this for 17 years — this is probably the most aggressive market I’ve seen,” Minear said. “There’s a low inventory of homes and more buyers.”
Growing, growing, growing
Whitley County’s population is expected to grow by at least 5 percent from now through 2040, meaning the need for housing is only going to rise.
Several different companies, including Minear’s, are working to provide more housing options. In the next year, Columbia City will have 150 more housing units.
Blue Bell Lofts, an abandoned factory that was transformed into senior apartments will soon be accepting residents on South Whitley Street. Quail Ridge on State Road 205 has already begun moving in families. The campus offers apartments, bungalow houses and senior villas.
“The recent opening of Quail Ridge and the new Blue Bell Lofts will allow local seniors to sell their homes and make them available for young families,” said Jon Myers, president of the Whitley County Economic Development Corp.
There are many new homes under construction as well. Cambridge Crossing, located on the north side of the city on State Road 109, is a new housing addition, and Minear Real Estate’s Ideal Homes is planning a 20-lot addition on South Line Street, across from the Whitley County Humane Shelter. Existing housing additions, such as Deer Chase on West Lincolnway, are continuing to grow.
“We have a number of new homes currently under construction, but our builders are facing the same problem as other employers. They can’t keep up because they don’t have enough skilled employees,” Myers said.
The EDC is working with other agencies to focus on talent attraction, as many companies aren’t able to fill positions in their workforce. New housing could attract more people to move to Whitley County, as well as other key factors that will play a role in coming years.
“As big as the uptick seems right now, I think this is just the leading edge of what we can expect over the next five-10 years,” Myers said. “Right now, the county and municipalities in the county need to focus on making sure all their utility infrastructure is going to be able to support that growth.”
Columbia City’s new high school, which will be south of the city limits on State Road 9 near Indian Springs Middle School, will be completed in 2020. The city’s new aquatics facility is expected to be open next summer, and will be a draw not only for local residents, but a destination for families in surrounding counties.
“If someone is looking for a place to live in northeast Indiana and they look at Columbia City, I think we look strong,” Minear said. “We’re in the middle of two cities that have a lot of good-paying jobs, we have a great crime rate — Whitley County is a great place to be.”
Warsaw has been called the orthopedic capital of the world, and many people who work in Fort Wayne enjoy living in Whitley County, outside of the bigger city.
“It’s a very real possibility that Whitley County could experience the type of growth that the counties around Indianapolis have experienced over the last 30 years,” Myers said.
Minear suggests people have a plan on where they’re going before they list a house, since many are selling quickly, as the Pullens have discovered.
“We have been looking at houses in Columbia City, but with the market being like it is, we unfortunately haven’t found anything,” Pullen said. “Now, we have to move in with family or attempt to find a rental from month to month. It’s put us in a position we weren’t expecting. We’re having to move much faster on making decisions for our family.”
The same reason it’s difficult to find a house to purchase is why the Pullens listed their house in the first place. The family of five had outgrown its home.
After having their third child, Shannon and her husband, Mike, gave up their master bedroom to their children.
“Five people sharing a bathroom and shower gets pretty ugly at times,” Pullen said.
Possibly more stressful than sharing a bathroom is finding a new house.
“House hunting is a big ball of stress,” Pullen said. “It’s depressing to see that your money doesn’t go very far, and how much things cost — especially just to get a four-bedroom home for a family of five. It takes a lot of patience, prayers and sacrifices to get through each day and think positively. There’s been many late-night discussions and shuffling of schedules to put house hunting as a priority right now.”
Pullen said they’ve been interested in houses that are sold before they can get a showing.
“I know the perfect house is out there for us, I just need to have trust and faith that it will work out,” she said.
Homes selling at or above market price have their own challenges.
“When people are paying full price for a home, if there’s any issues with the inspection, they want everything fixed,” Minear said. “But the seller might have a whole list of other people who will buy the house as-is. This market comes with its own set of problems.”
It wasn’t that long ago, that it was a buyer’s market.
“Now that the economy has improved, people are ready to move forward,” Minear said. “They’re more confident, and to the point that they’re not afraid to make a move. In 2010, people were too scared to do anything. It’s not as scary of a time as it was back then.
“We’re riding the wave,” Minear said. “We haven’t seen a decline yet.”