*From The Times of Northwest Indiana - August 12, 2006

Brisk housing sales in July continue to set Northwest Indiana apart from other areas of the country.

July sales of new and existing homes jumped by 5 percent from a year ago, to hit 755 in Lake and Porter counties combined, according to information from the Greater Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors.

That could put the region on track for another record year, topping previous high marks set in 2004 and 2005, GNIAR President Nancy Smith said.

"We're certainly going to be close," Smith said. "Seven months into it, we're still ahead of last year," when a total 7,942 homes were sold across Northwest Indiana.

The regional uptick comes as various reports show a five-year nationwide housing boom is on the wane.

Sales of new and existing U.S. homes have been falling, and although the median selling prices are still increasing, the national gains have been the smallest in years.

Existing-home sales are forecast to fall 6.5 percent to 6.61 million this year, and new-home sales are projected to drop 12.8 percent to 1.12 million, according to the National Association of Realtors.

The national median existing-home price for all housing types is forecast to grow 4.3 percent this year to $229,000, while the median new-home price is expected to rise only 0.5 percent to $242,100 as builders offer incentives to clear unsold inventory, the national realtors association reported.

Areas at greatest risk for falling prices are once booming areas of California, Florida and parts of the West and Northwest,

Current conditions make the market favorable for buyers, National Realtors Association President Thomas Stevens said.

The July median selling price in Lake and Porter counties combined rose by 5 percent from last year to $144,900.

Northwest Indiana is unlikely to see housing prices fluctuate significantly, Smith said.

"We're in an area where we didn't have a huge jump in appreciation," she said. "We have had steady growth, not huge swings.

"When you have that, you're much better able to sustain strong sales," Smith said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.