Anxiety about the housing market seems to be subsiding as real estate markets across the nation and in Jefferson County did better than expected in 2013.

Tony Bilz, outgoing president of the Jefferson County Board of Realtors, said he's seen the market improve over the last several years.

"Rest assured, Madison and Jefferson County sales were up last year. It has gotten better," he said.

Bilz said last year's closings were up 8.8 percent, and from November 2012 to October 2013, closings increased from 271 to 283 in the county.

He also said that between August 2012 and October 2013 the median sales price for homes in Jefferson County rose 4.7 percent.

"I can see a significant increase in sales going through this downturn. It's definitely become positive again," he said. "I can't predict what's going to happen this year. I don't know interest rates or where the economy is going to go. I just have to wait and see. But, it's definitely gotten better."

Home sales across the state have seen trends similar to Jefferson County's.

In a report from the Indiana Association of Realtors, housing price appreciation is up 6.4 percent in the U.S. and 3.1 percent in Indiana from the second quarter of 2012 to the second quarter of 2013.

The same report said "home sales from July 2012 to June 2013 were up more than 20 percent," and in that time the median price for a home in Indiana rose from $114,000 to $118,000.

According to the National Association of Realtors, median home prices continue to show year-over-year growth nationally.

According to a press release, "the national median existing-home price for all housing types was $196,300 in November, up 9.4 percent from November 2012."

Mortgage rates have risen more than a full percentage point since hitting record lows a year ago. The increase was driven by speculation that the Federal Reserve would reduce its $85 billion a month in bond purchases.

Last month, the Fed determined the economy was strong enough to start cutting those monthly purchases by $10 billion. The bond purchases have kept long-term interest rates low.

Andy Applewhite, senior vice president of mortgage operations at MainSource Bank, said mortgage rates began to change last spring.

"You could get a 30-year fixed rate below 4 percent," he said. Now the rate ranges between 4 and 4.5 percent.

"The rates are higher than last year, but they're still low rates," he said. "It's a great time (to buy.)"

Applewhite said, while it's difficult to predict, he expects mortgage rates to remain relatively flat or slightly increase.

But overall, 2013 represented the best year for the housing market since the financial crisis. Sales of existing homes should reach 5.1 million for last year, the National Association of Realtors forecasts. That would be up 10 percent from the previous year and the most since 2006. It's still below the 5.5 million generally associated with healthy housing markets.



The Associated Press contributed to this story.