A downward trend in the Del Norte County real estate market for residential properties has stabilized and is beginning to inch upward, according to local real estate agents. Sales have increased for lower-priced homes, said Dee Kinney, president of the Del Norte County Association of Realtors. Real estate agents also have been finding fewer short sales and foreclosed properties on the market, which helps stabilize the market, she said.

Kinney, a broker associate for Bayside Realty, said recovery in the Del Norte County housing market has a U-shape. Prices start to drop and continue to decrease before hitting bottom, she said. Prices then stay low for about three years before they start to rise again, Kinney said.

"The market's stabilized," she said. "Short sale properties got eaten up before prices started to rise, which makes it a strong market."

In a Feb. 1 report on the 2013 Business Outlook Conference, the Curry Coastal Pilot reported that residential sales in Del Norte County totaled 253 in 2012, up from 167 in 2010.

Del Norte County real estate agents sold 112 stick-built single family homes in 2008 for an average price of about $244,260, according to statistics compiled by real estate investor Mike Melovich. Homes sold in 2008 spent an average time of about 215 days on the market, he said.

In 2012, real estate agents sold 184 stick-built single family homes for an average price of $174,000, Melovich said. Homes spent an average of 255 days on the market.

"More people are coming into the market place," Melovich said. "Between 2008 and now 72 more homes have been sold. (The market) is improving."

Melovich moved from Pacifica to Del Norte County in 2002 and has been purchasing properties and re-selling them since then. He invests in stick-built bank-owned homes, rehabilitates them and sells them primarily to first-time homebuyers. This process takes an average about six months, he estimated.

When he purchases a new home, Melovich said, he'll look at its layout and see what can be improved. With the right layout, he can take a two-bedroom, one-bathroom home and convert it to a three-bedroom, one-bathroom property. Those are the biggest sellers currently, he said.

Often those homes have been vacant for a long time and are in horrible condition. Some sport broken windows, stained carpets and holes in the roof or the walls, he said. Melovich often has to remove mold and dry rot. He said he even purchased a home recently that was missing an electrical panel.

"Banks don't care. They figure that's your problem," he said. "Part of my passion is to be able to find a home that needs renovation and improve the neighborhood. That home lowers the value of property around it."

Even though the average time between Melovich buying and selling a property is about six months, the last one he sold had a buyer before it was put on the market.

"That happens not real often, but it's good when it does," he said. "Most homes have good activity if the house is priced right."

A lot of buyers purchase a home with a set price in mind and are not willing to go far over their comfort zone, Kinney said. The higher a home is priced, the longer it will stay on the market and follow the market down, she said.

"It's not the highest price that wins, it's what the market will bear," Kinney said.

Norma Cassady, another Bayside Realty Realtor, said the key to selling a home quickly is for the seller to listen to his or her real estate agent. One customer wanted to sell a double-wide mobile recently for $125,000, she said. It was nice and in good condition, but it had only received two offers, both under $100,000, Cassady said.

"If they're listed right, they sell," she said, referring to homes. "Business is up for us. We're enjoying it."

Reach Jessica Cejnar at jcejnar@triplicate.com.