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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos by Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette Windsor Pointe is one of two neighborhoods in New Haven that feature the type of homes listed in the survey.

  • Real estate agent Steve McMichael stands in front of a home on Erwin Lane in New Haven that he sold last year. A new report places New Haven third in Indiana for affordability of a four-bedroom, two-bath home.

Saturday, January 09, 2016 10:09 pm

3 among 'most affordable'

Rosa Salter Rodriguez | The Journal Gazette

If you’d like to get more bang for your homebuying buck in Indiana, you might want to think about New Haven.

Or Huntington. Or Bluffton.

That’s the conclusion of a 2015 report by the Coldwell Banker real estate firm ranking more than 2,700 markets nationwide for affordability based on average listing prices for a four-bedroom, two-bathroom house.

New Haven, with an average listing price of $127,213, ranked third-most affordable in Indiana, behind North Vernon and Hammond. Coming in fourth was Huntington at $128,484, and fifth was Bluffton at $134,832.

The New Haven figure stands at more than 40 percent less than the study’s statewide average of $224,760 – and nearly $39,000 under the $166,029 average for Fort Wayne, which ranked 12th for affordability.

Fifty-two Indiana places were surveyed between December 2014 and June 2015. Only communities with at least 10 qualifying homes for sale during that period were ranked.

Area real estate agents say the report reflects their experiences, although the numbers may be slightly different.

"New Haven is kind of a well- ;kept secret about the value of homes," says Steve Mc­Michael, owner of Imagine Real Estate in New Haven. "It’s off a lot of people’s radar."

McMichael – who hosts "My Hoosier Home" on New Haven’s WHNH, 101.3 FM and has a website on the area’s real estate market, – cites New Haven’s Wood Ridge Estates and Windsor Pointe as two neighborhoods where four-bedroom, two-bath homes in the price range exist.

Woodridge’s homes were built as a suburban neighborhood in the 1970s and Windsor in the 2000s, he says. Also, McMichael says, homes in additions north and south of town built in the 1990s can be had for $150,000 to $160,000, a little bit more than the report’s average. 

"In my experience, homes (in New Haven) are at least 10 percent cheaper than a comparable home in just about any neighborhood in Fort Wayne," McMichael says, adding that he’s generally found New Haven’s homes at the price point in good repair.

Jody Holloway, a longtime Coldwell Banker real estate agent in Bluffton who works mostly in that community, Huntington and New Haven, says people shouldn’t cross those smaller communities off their list because of commuting times.

Interstate 469 and other road improvements such as U.S. 24 make for quicker travel, even if the distance isn’t shorter, he says, making all of them bedroom communities for much of Fort Wayne.

"From my office in the south end of Bluffton to Lutheran Hospital is about 30 to 35 minutes," he says. "If you were traveling from the north end of Fort Wayne to downtown or south or west, you’d spend the same amount of time in the car." 

Huntington is about the same amount of time from workplaces in southwest Fort Wayne and the General Motors plant and other workplaces in Lafayette Township, Holloway points out. And the small towns have amenities such as restaurants and recreation.

"If we don’t have it here, it’s just a short jaunt down the road," he says, adding that the towns are also within commuting distance for IPFW and other colleges. 

Another asset of New Haven and Bluffton is their schools, the two real estate professionals say. 

"The school system (East Allen County Schools) got some knocks there for a while, but they’re an A school system now," McMichael says. Holloway touts the small size of Bluffton classes as enabling students to get more individualized instruction and more opportunities to participate on sports teams – which, he says, the community enthusiastically supports.

As for the reasons New Haven homes may be priced less, McMichael says they generally were developed at times when land in the area cost less. Development costs also remain a bit lower in the New Haven area, he notes, and some homes may not be built on basements, which add cost.

Bluffton remains largely a farming community, and there is more land potentially available and more easily developed at lower prices than in Allen County, according to Holloway.  

Although local statistics don’t separate four-bedroom, two-bath houses from other properties, the average price of New Haven homes sold through Realtors was about $108,000. That compares with $139,535 in Fort Wayne and $143,073 in Allen County, including Fort Wayne.

The 2015 average sold price was $106,159 in Huntington County and $113,485 in Wells County, which includes Bluffton.

The numbers were compiled by the multiple listing service of Upstar, the Upstate Alliance of Realtors, which is based in Fort Wayne.

If there’s a downside to the affordability picture, it may be that four-bedroom, two-bath homes in the three municipalities may be somewhat hard to find. 

Last week, Upstar’s multiple listing service had 13 for sale in New Haven, 10 in Bluffton and 23 in Huntington. Homes in the three areas last year stayed on the market about two months. 

But once found, a New Haven, Huntington or Bluffton house can really fill the bill for some buyers.

Nick and Abby Buis found their four-bedroom, three-bath house in New Haven’s Windsor Pointe for about $118,000 about a year and a half ago. 

The traditional two-story house on a cul-de-sac has a two-car attached garage and is only two minutes by car from school for their three daughters, who are 10, 7 and 5.

Abby Buis, a stay-at-home mom, says the home didn’t need repairs when they bought it with the assistance of a Veterans Administration loan.

However, the couple did make some updates, including replacing carpet with laminate flooring in the dining room and installing a permanent flagpole in the front yard so Nick, an Army veteran who served in Iraq, can show his American military pride.

"We’d been renting for 11 years and moving around," Abby says. "We were excited just to get a house, but to find a home – this home, in this neighborhood – is great. I feel safe here at all times of the day.

"We love this house. It’s more than enough room for our family of five. We still have closets we’re not using," she added.

"There’s no reason for us to move. We fit here, and we’ve got room to grow."