Janesville56.4°

Tough housing market hits school district

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GINA R. HEINE
February 4, 2011
— While students in the Evansville High School building trades class work on a home set to be completed in spring, the home they finished nearly a year ago remains on the market.

It's a result of the challenging housing market, said Lori Allen, real estate agent for the district. She said she's hoping the home at 454 S. 6th St., sells by early to mid-spring.


Allen recently updated the Evansville School Board, asking members to consider a $10,000 price drop on the home from its listed price of $199,900 to help bring in more traffic and bring the home in line with cost per square foot appraisals in the area.


Board members took no action, instead discussing whether the district should order a third-party appraisal. Board members decided administrators can make that decision, and District Administrator Heidi Carvin said this week she would recommend no action when the board meets Monday.


"I think it would make sense when the second house is finished in spring to get appraisals of both houses, assuming neither sold," she said.


The three-bedroom, two-bathroom home built last year has been on the market since April 2010. It received one offer contingent on the buyers selling their own home, Allen said. The home has had fewer showings than she had hoped, she said.


In the last six months in the Evansville School District, two new comparable homes soldó one at $182,000 and one at $184,000ówith offers pending on three other homes, she said. The most recent home sold by the school district was built in the 2008-09 school year and sold for $199,900 in May 2009.


Allen said she hopes buyers appreciate the energy efficient features in the home. It includes a solar panel system, similar to systems on the previous homes the district built that are saving the homeowners 50 to 75 percent of their electric bills, she said. The home is insulated beyond code requirements and has energy efficient appliances including a high-end washer and dryer.


For the school district, having money tied up in real estate is not really a concern, Carvin said.


"In our overall budget, it's not that significant of a concern," she said.


The only costs the district incurs while the homes are on the market are utilities and insurance.


The home under construction is the fourth energy-efficient house students have built. The program started with money from the district's fund balance and homes are sold basically at-cost, Carvin said, with the money going to the next home. A small reserve fund from previous sales is used for future equipment purchases or to recover costs from a specific house.


Students and district staff primarily provide the labor to build the homes and local contractors help when there are liability or timing issues such as pouring the foundation and putting up roof trusses and roofing, Carvin said.


The projects are a part of the Stateline Career & Technical Education Academy. An economic development grant provided a job site trailer and tools.


The future of the project appears to rest in the hands of buyers.


The district will not have more than two houses on the market at the same time, Carvin said. If neither home sells, one option for next year's class would be to finish the basements in the homes to give students experience, she said.


"The other (option) would be to work on other projects," she said, noting the students started this school year by building a small shed for the town of Union.


A developer is holding a lot in reserve for the district's next home, but Carvin said the district has not bought it.



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