Home sales rising, foreclosures falling in Akron, Ohio

The city of Akron, Ohio, is tumbling down a listing of city rankings, but that's not such a bad thing.

At the end of 2008, Akron's foreclosure rate ranked among the top 30 metro areas nationwide, RealtyTrac.com says.

By May of this year, the city's foreclosure rate had improved, putting the city at No. 76 on the list. Home sales have increased slightly: up 3.1% in May compared with the same month last year.

It's too early for a celebration, but the Akron housing market may have seen the bottom and is beginning to move upward.

Akron's housing market never had the kind of bubble that occurred in California, Florida and Arizona. "Prices didn't go up as much," says Ken Mayland, president of ClearView Economics. "So it's not now coming down as much."

But Akron was hit hard by subprime loans and foreclosures, which depressed prices.

Foreclosures and short sales have since slowed.

"That's not to say that we're still not having a lot of those properties," says Cindy Slabaugh, president of the Akron Area Board of Realtors. "But that inventory has started to diminish."

Akron's road to complete recovery is not exactly smooth: The "Rubber Capital of the World" has primarily been a city of manufacturing and machine-tool making. Many businesses are auto suppliers. "That is on its back now," Mayland says.

In February, Goodyear Tire & Rubber, which is the largest manufacturing employer in Akron, announced that it would cut nearly 5,000 jobs and freeze salaries.

That hurts the housing market. But Akron has medical and higher-education jobs to help stabilize the manufacturing losses.

And last month a new telecommunications company, PlusOne Communications, opened and said it would hire about 1,500 employees by the end of 2010.

"I think we'll start leveling off to where it's not such a buyer's market," Slabaugh says. "But people have gotten smarter and more conservative about what they buy."