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      Emmet County housing market top shelf

      We have new numbers dealing with the real estate industry in Michigan.

      Last year, the number of homes sold in Michigan was slightly down, about a half-a-percent compared to the year before.

      But new data shows home prices are up about a percent and in one Northern Michigan county, average home prices far exceed that.

      "As far as Northwest Michigan goes, and the second home market goes, and the industry goes, we're very healthy, our sales at this company were up 46 percent over the year to date, from the previous year," says Wally Kidd, co-owner of Kidd & Leavy Real Estate Company in Petoskey.

      Kidd says last year, his company sold $88-million worth of homes, up from $60-million in 2010. Not only did business increase, but the average sale price of homes in Emmet County jumped $55,000 last year, averaging out to about $279,000 per sale, which is the highest average in the state, according to Michigan Association of Realtors.

      "I think it also tells us that buyers are more confident with where their pocketbook is, where their investments are, and they're willing to spend money," says Kidd.

      Kidd says home values are nowhere near peak levels and it's still a buyer's market. But the fact that the investment is being made could be a sign of better times.

      â??There's no guarantee in anything real estate today, so we're very fortunate now to have a strong market for second homes in Northern Michigan now," Kidd says.

      Many of the homes sold last year are seasonal, lakefront homes with significant value. That somewhat skews the average selling price. However, Kidd says this is still a good thing and the bottom-line for the Petoskey Chamber of Commerce: those people purchasing homes have a trickle-down effect that is very positive for the region.

      "â??Resorterâ??sâ?? here are more invested, they pay taxes here, they have a home here," says Carlin Smith.

      Smith is the director of the Petoskey Area Chamber of Commerce and says the second-home industry is an economic engine to a resort town, and to fuel it, means more jobs.

      â??To have home sales happening puts more people to work, and then that spending happens," says Smith.

      As far as average property values go, Emmet County Equalization still expects a decrease, but calls the average increase good news.

      â??The more turnover there is for sales or properties indicating a better value, that helps stabilize the economy of Emmet County," says Allen Enciso, Assistant Director of Emmet County Equalization/GIS Department.

      While Emmet County had the highest average selling price last year, Charlevoix County and Antrim County had some of the largest sales price declines in the state.