Despite low inventory, a Johnson County address is in high demand, a trend that is expected to continue into next year.

New home permits are up 17% this year. Nearly 1,000 new home permits were issued between January and November in Johnson County. During a similar period from January to November 2020, about 840 home permits were issued, according to the Builder’s Association of Greater Indianapolis.

For the past few years, housing demand has been most prominent in northwestern White River Township, in the Center Grove school district. This year, however, demand is more widespread across the county, said Ron Rose, a Greenwood-based realtor.

In most of the county, the number of new building permits has increased. Edinburgh and Whiteland saw increases of more than a 100% compared to the same time last year. Bargersville and Franklin also saw increases, data shows.

While this year’s data is not yet complete, it shows some areas of the county have seen a decrease in the number of new permits. Greenwood, for example, saw an 18% drop in new home permits compared to the same time last year. And Trafalgar saw a 46% decrease, data shows.

New home permits in unincorporated parts of the county dropped by 3%, a number that is likely to change once the full December data comes in. In Prince’s Lakes, no new permits had been filed as of November. And New Whiteland, for the sixth year in a row, had no new home permits filed as of November, data shows.

The number of new home permits is connected to the availability of existing housing in Johnson County. Housing inventory is extremely low in the county right now, Rose said.

“It’s driving some people to decide to build even though they know the timelines with COVID delays might be up to 8-to-12 months (until they can move in),” Rose said.

Housing inventory for single-family homes in Johnson County has fluctuated from a high of 473 in September 2018, to a low of 73 in February. In November, there were 114 single-family homes on the market, a 21% drop from 144 homes in November 2020, according to data from the MIBOR Realtor Association.

The high demand for homes in Johnson County sent prices skyrocketing for those wanting to buy already built homes. The average sale price for single-family homes has increased to just shy of $300,000 this November from about $180,000 in November 2018, data shows.

Compared to November 2020, average sale prices have increased by 27.5%. Year-to-date, average sale prices have gone to $265,000 from about $220,000, a 20.5% increase, data shows.

The increase in sale prices in evident across central Indiana, where the region as a whole saw prices increase by about 12% compared to 2020.

Whiteland resident Brittany Phillips ultimately decided to build a new home due to the limited inventory. After two years of searching and coming up empty-handed, it seemed like the only option for her family, she said.

Phillips and her family knew they wanted to stay in Johnson County, specifically in Center Grove, Clark-Pleasant or Greenwood school districts, which limited their search, she said.

“A good percentage of (the) homes listed are in a housing addition. We definitely didn’t want that,” Phillips said. “So after searching for two years, we went to Plan B — find land and build.”

Finding land, much like finding the home they wanted, wasn’t easy either. Land prices are up this year, too, and more homes are being listed than land. Luckily, Phillips’ husband knew someone who was plotting three lots to be sold, so they were able to snag one of those lots for $105,000 in March.

The family built in Whiteland, off County Road 600 North and Hurricane Road. Construction started on their new home in July, and the family moved in earlier this month after spending $455,000 to build the house, Phillips said.

She recommends those who are thinking about building a home find and meet with someone who has gone through the process, and use a custom builder instead of a box builder, she said.

Next year, the housing market is likely to see more of the same. Right now, the only thing that could possibly change that is interest rates. If rates jump drastically, some people will be forced out of the market, Rose said.

If people are thinking about building a home rather than outright buying one, they should still consider having a realtor represent them throughout the process. It is beneficial for all those involved, and won’t cost anything extra, he said.

“They should (also) have their own local home inspector — a third party — monitor construction and make sure they get what they paid for,” Rose said.

On the flip side, if people are thinking about buying an existing home, they should be prepared for competition. They should also make sure they talk seriously with a realtor about the best ways to approach offers and sales, Rose said.

“People should put their best foot forward,” he said.