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Ceres house demand outstripping inventory
The lack of housing inventory, affordable interest rates and healthy demand continues to drive up prices of Ceres houses.

The median price for a house in Ceres was $138,000 in October. Ironically that is 1.25 percent lower than October 2011, said PMZ real estate agent Eric Ingwerson, who is considered to be an expert on the Ceres real estate market.

"Prices definitely are on the rise," said Ingwerson, who has seen prices on the rise for the past six month.

The median price per square foot in Ceres was $80 in October, he said.

Inventory is low, said Ingwerson, because very little or no construction has occurred in the last four years and there is limited potential for existing homeowners to move up. Also a member of the Ceres City Council, Ingwerson doesn't expect construction to take place for another two years, and that includes building in the recently annexed 960-acre West Landing area.

"This creates a challenge for agents. It just makes our job that much harder to locate homes for buyers. We have to constantly stay at it."

While the news of rising prices is good for those who watched the value of their homes plummet from a high in 2005, it is bad news for those trying to buy. The affordability of homes has dropped 3 percent points this year. Earlier this year prices in Stanislaus County were considered affordable to 92.5 percent of middle-income buyers. The Housing Opportunity Index rate has now fallen to 89.3 percent; still a far cry from the three percent affordability factor in 2005.

Prices will only continue to rise during 2013, he believes, because of too few houses for the buyers in the market. Competition for what is placed on the market will "continue to drive prices upward," he said.

As of Thursday, there were 180 pending sales in Ceres in open escrows not yet closed. A total of 27 properties- six are short sales -- east of the freeway in Ceres (including Hatch Road to River Road) were listed. Ingwerson said in a normal market that number would be 65-85 at any given time. West of Highway 99, which encompasses Ceres and south Modesto to Ustick Road, there are 35 homes on the market. Four were uninhabitable smaller homes on Morgan Road.

Ingwerson said he's been helping one couple who is pre-qualified up to $125,000 "for a couple of months." The couple has written up five offers and has been unsuccessful because of the competition.

A number of owners are now able to sell their homes with the increase in housing prices. But complicating matters are the numerous sellers who insert a clause stating that an offer is contingent upon the seller buying a new residence.

The hottest market seems to be in Oakdale, followed by Turlock and the Ceres/Modesto market, said Ingwerson.

"Most all the communities in the county are attractive to buyers," he said.