Toledo, Ohio: Prices low, getting lower

ByChristine Dugas, USA TODAY

— -- Toledo is known as the Glass City, because it's produced everything from windows and windshields to bottles and glass art. But these days, the city in northwestern Ohio seems to be struggling to right its economic base.

Toledo has been hit by job losses, home foreclosures and a housing market slowdown. Home prices and sales have continued to fall this year. Monthly sales are down 8.7% from year-ago totals (compared with a 9.3% drop nationwide) and the median price has slipped 7.4% (down 1% nationally).

The number of homes for sale has climbed to an unusually high 9,700 in the Toledo area, says Mark Kruse, a real estate agent at The Danberry Co.

It's no wonder that the inventory of homes for sale is rising. Last year, there were 4,000 homes in foreclosure in Lucas County, where Toledo is based. This year, it could exceed 5,000, Kruse says.

And now the collapse of the subprime mortgage market will make it harder for many first-time home buyers to obtain a mortgage, unless they can qualify for a conventional loan.

Real estate agents say the city is trying to turn around the economy and the housing market. At least Toledo, unlike some other cities, isn't faced with home prices that once skyrocketed and are now collapsing.

"Home sales are not dropping so fast," says Ray Henderson, president of the Toledo Board of Realtors. "Home volume is down a little, but I think we're keeping an even keel."

The good news, Henderson says, is that the city is experiencing some new construction. There's a new open-air mall called Fallen Timbers. A sports arena is being built downtown. And new condos in the warehouse district are being sold for prices as high as $300,000.

But the housing market is linked to the job market. Toledo is well-known for the auto industry, including Jeep and Chrysler, and there has been a loss of white-collar jobs in that industry.

At the same time, young college graduates have been moving from Toledo to larger cities. So now, Henderson says, many local companies are making a more vigorous effort to attract and retain them.

On Toledo's horizon is a research and technology corridor, which would help create more jobs, Kruse says.

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