The association on Monday reported a total of 805 sales in Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Newton, Jasper, Starke and Pulaski counties in March, down 4.4 percent from the 842 in March 2017. The median price of $158,000 was up 15.6 percent from last year's $136,700.
"Unfortunately, it was more of the same," GNIAR CEO Pete Novak said. A low inventory of homes for sale has elevated competition among buyers, keeping prices high and sales flat.
Novak said the inventory of homes for sale reached its post-recession peak in late 2014 and has been falling since then.
"It's mostly on the entry level and the mid-level," he said. "We just don't have enough properties coming up for sale right now."
Monthly results can be choppy — March saw a sales drop in Lake County of 33, in LaPorte of 16 and in the four smaller counties of 30, while Porter made up some of that by rising 44 sales, a 27.3 percent gain over last March.
But for the first quarter of the year, sales of 1,953 homes in the seven-county area were effectively even with last year's 1,951, while the median price was up 13.1 percent to $155,000, from $137,000.
Novak said signs of an increase in construction are encouraging. "Demand is such that if we had more inventory, we'd see more sales," he said.
Nationally, home sales were down 1.2 percent year-over-year in March at an annualized rate, according to the National Association of Realtors. That rate, 5.6 million, was higher than February because of better weather in the Northeast and Midwest, but it continued to reflect challenging market conditions, according to NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.
"The unwelcoming news is that while the healthy economy is generating sustained interest in buying a home this spring, sales are lagging year ago levels because supply is woefully low and home prices keep climbing above what some would-be buyers can afford," Yun said.
The NAR also reported that:
• The median existing-home price in March was $250,400, up 5.8 percent from March 2017 and the 73rd straight month of year-over-year gains.
• Housing inventory for sale was down 7.2 percent from the same month a year ago, to 1.67 million. Inventory year-over-year has fallen for 34 consecutive months and is at a 3.6-month supply.
• According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year-conventional, fixed-rate mortgage was 4.44 percent in March, the highest since December 2013.
• Properties averaged 30 days on the market in March, down from 34 days a year ago.