From www.post-trib.com

What housing bubble?

While much of the nation suffers from continued falling housing prices, Lake County will see 3.2 percent growth over past year in residential real estate value in 2007, according to a report by Fortune magazine. This places Lake fifth in the Midwest and 30th in the nation in a ranking of 100 real estate markets conducted by the magazine.

Porter County was not included in the survey, but realtors said housing values there mirror its sister county: rising slowly and steadily.

And realtors here say the 3.2 percent is an average. Houses in some areas, such as St. John and Crown Point, could see even bigger increases in value.

In contrast, residential housing values have declined 3 percent nationally, with larger drops in fast-growing coastal and vacation areas that experienced huge housing value gains in recent years.

Northwest Indiana real estate agents are basking in the glow of the report, which was prepared by Fortune magazine, Moody's and FISERV Lending Solutions and posted on CNNMoney.com.

Leading the way in the nation in rising home values, according to the magazine report, is McAllen, Texas, with Youngstown, Ohio, the top city in the Midwest.

Lake County, listed as the Gary area in the report, ranks 30th in the nation and fifth in the Midwest. Only Youngstown, Akron and Cleveland, Ohio, and Wichita, Kan., outrank the Gary area. Lake County even outranks Indianapolis (the Midwest's No. 7 with a 3 percent rise in value) and Chicago (the Midwest's No. 11 with a 2.6 percent hike in value).

The report comes as a bit of surprise after reports of the price-bubble bursting in top real estate markets such as Miami and San Francisco. And the nation as a whole saw a 3 percent decline in prices, the first time since the Great Depression that prices declined one full year.

James Shaw, a real estate agent with Keller Williams Realty Leaders of Crown Point, said averages contain increases as well as decreases.

And many areas, such as Lake and Porter counties, could ride the wave of steady appreciation brought by being close to, but not part of, Chicago. Suburban and exurban areas did well, both nationally and locally.

Jana Caudill, owner of Keller Williams Realty Leaders, predicted some areas of Northwest Indiana will do even better than the 3.2 percent-increase forecast.

"I'm excited to see the forecasted increase over 3 percent," Caudill said. "But some areas, like St. John, Dyer, Crown Point and Schererville, should see even larger increases in value."

For example, Crown Point is booming, Shaw said.

In 2005, the average listing price was $183,681. In 2006, it was $202,383 -- a 10.2 percent increase.

And right now, the average listing price is $298,333, although Shaw said that is far from what the average for 2007 will probably be.

Shaw said Northwest Indiana is grounded in reality -- increases that won't be deflated later.

"This market is so stable and steady," said Shaw.

The Dec. 25 issue of Fortune is also its annual Investors Guide and will be on news stands until March, according to Susan Brown Williams, communications director for Fortune.