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Mitchell County real estate agents agree farmland prices are falling, while good acreages and moderate housing are in demand as well as the need for rental properties.

Elaine Govern with Govern Farms and Homes, Riceville, Kevin Kolbet of Kolbet Realtors, Osage, and Lisa Pollard with Main Reality, Osage, offered their thoughts on the current real estate market in Mitchell County.

Farmland:

Govern, Kolbet and Pollard said farmland prices are sliding down. The Iowa Chapter of Realtors Land Institute released its March 30 survey, in which it stated Iowa farmland prices declined 8.7 percent over the past year and, in North Central Iowa, including Mitchell County, prices have fallen 9.1 percent for the year. Two years ago the average price per acre of land in Iowa was $8,286, however, today’s average price stands at $6,732.

“Land prices have slid down from their peak, but long-term I don’t feel commodity prices will stay depressed, and some input costs like fuel and fertilizer have come down,” said Kolbet. “There is still a demand for quality farmland and the price of land is determined more by its quality and location than by current price trends.”

“There is not much farmland available in this area. There is a limited supply. According to ISU, most land is in strong hands and most land is now owned by women,” said Govern.

Pollard added, “There is not a lot of land to sell and the price depends on the demand and the location.”

Acreages:

“There is a limited supply of acreages. As farm buildings get older there are fewer of them. Good acreages are hard to find,” said Govern. “If you are looking at an acreage, always check septic system laws and check out the well before buying.”

Kolbet stated, “There are fewer and fewer of them, because there are fewer farmsteads and with fuel costs down, people don’t mind the commute. The ones which are out there are in high demand.”

Pollard added, “Prices on acreages are steady. Those closer to town and on hard-surface roads tend to sell better. There are buyers looking for an old set of buildings they can tear down and then start rebuilding a new house and outbuildings on the site.”

Commercial Real Estate:

“I think Osage has a lot to offer. It has a good store system and a great variety of businesses,” said Pollard. “The Cedar River Complex and other things bring people to Osage, and while they are in town they spend money at the grocery store or gas station, which brings business to the community. We have potential customers considering to add to Main Street businesses.”

“We are kind of a little town and not much commercial real estate is moving,” said Govern. “Occasionally a business comes up for sale, but not lots of commercial real estate.”

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Osage’s commercial market is different, according to Kolbet. “We are fortunate to have vibrant commercial businesses. Ours are fueled by the diverse industries in our town, which is a tremendous advantage. Commercial property is steady to higher; there are not a lot of vacancies.”

Housing:

There was a consensus the low to moderate housing market is healthy in Mitchell County. One firm confirmed a house had only stayed on the market one day, and another new listing from the day before already had two showings scheduled.

“Homes are moving really good; all categories from low end to high end,” said Kolbet. “We are one of only two rural counties in Iowa that has had growth.”

Pollard stated, “The market right now is very active. We have a lower volume of houses to sell and a larger demand. Houses in the $70,000 to $80,000 range sell quickly. I think a majority of people are moving into houses in good condition. Updated homes sell quicker.”

Govern added, “Prices in town (Riceville) seem to be pretty stable and middle-priced homes go pretty good here. We have some lower priced houses which can be attractive and a person can get a Rural Development Housing Loan if they qualify.”

As the city of Riceville is located in both Mitchell and Howard counties, Govern warned perspective Riceville buyers they need to know in which county the new house is located, because the each county has differing loan scales.

Infill Lots and Loans:

Kolbet stated infill lots may be a good investment if building a new home. An infill lot is one on which a former structure has been removed, but the infrastructure is still in place. Buying an infill lot saves the costs of running water, sewer and gas lines, and the street is already in place.

In some cases, building a new home next to an older existing home can affect the resale value of the newer home, but Kolbet said, “Because Osage people have pride and ownership in their property, people don’t mind building a new home by an existing home.”

Another factor in new house construction, said Kolbet, is “we have strong suppliers, great carpenters, electricians, plumbers and other tradespeople.”

Kolbet said the city of Osage will provide some assistance toward the destruction of a vacated house, but he wished the program would provide even more assistance.

“It’s a great time to buy a home. When you can borrow and interest rates are only 3 to 4 percent; it brings tremendous buying power,” said Kolbet. “The short term outlook for home values will stay the same, but long term values will grow, but not drastically.”

Pollard stated, “Lots are selling well. I think new construction and new development will be strong this year. If you can borrow money at 3½ to 4 percent, it’s time to purchase or build a home now.”

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