Central Iowa real estate like to suffer from Whirlpool pull out

Central Iowa real estate likely to suffer from Whirlpool pull out
Date May 15, 2006
Section(s) Local News
DES MOINES (AP) — Real estate experts believe Whirlpool’s decision to shutdown Maytag facilities in Newton could be big drag on home prices in Jasper County — and throughout central Iowa.

About half of Maytag‘s 2,000 workers live outside of Newton, meaning the effects could reach many towns and cities near Newton. Experts also say Iowa has already seen what can happen when a town loses a large employer in places like Marshalltown, when Fisher Controls and Lennox Industries moved away, or Waterloo when John Deere laid off thousands of employees.

“The results were the same — plummeting property values, businesses going under, and a glut of homes that sat on the market for years and years,” said Arthur Cox, a real estate professor at University of Northern Iowa. “It’s a hard lesson, but it’s one we’ve seen before.”

Some real estate agents are remaining optimistic. Geri Doyle, an Iowa Realty agent who moved to Newton eight years ago, said she saw no new houses put on the market the day Whirlpool announced it would be leaving — but she did handle new offers on existing homes.

“We’re humming along just like always,” Doyle said.

Carol Clemmens, executive officer of the Newton Board of Realtors, also said “gloom and doom” forecasts were premature.

“Because (the shutdown) is going to occur gradually, we’re not anticipating a huge glut of homes at once,” said Clemmens, whose husband works at Maytag. “It’s going to be spread over time, and in that time you never know what will happen. People will choose to stay, or a new business will move to town. You just don’t know.”

Other signs point to a sagging market, however. The average number of days it took a house to be sold rose by about a month in the first part of 2006, and many are already leaving.

Marilynn Cedarstrom, a relocation director for Coldwell Banker, said in the past week she has begun the listing process for 10 Maytag employees who have been offered transfers under Whirlpool. The sellers are in neighborhoods like Country Club in Clive, Glen Oaks in West Des Moines and new developments in Johnston, Urbandale and Ankeny.

Cox, the UNI professor, said the protracted departure of Maytag will actually make things worse for real estate.

“Everybody knows what’s going to happen in Newton now,” Cox said. “Buyers will pay substantially less than they otherwise would. There will be a significant supply-and-demand imbalance. Just because the shutdown will be drawn out only means we are prolonging the agony of it. “I hope I am wrong. But the way I see it right now, those people … are stuck.”


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