Area home sales forecast looks bright for 2010 – Chattanooga Times Free Press

Sunday, March 28, 2010

By: Tamara Best


Local Realtors say this year looks promising for the Chattanooga housing market with prices for homes starting to rise.


“There’s no doubt that we’ve seen the worst of it,” said Jay Bell, owner and agent of Bell Development. “It’s not just my hunch. The evidence is there.”


Mr. Bell said one of the most significant changes since the housing meltdown of 2009 has been the overall attitude of buyers.


“A year ago, a lot of the offers that we were getting weren’t real offers; they were people who were shopping for distressed properties or looking to get a deal that was unrealistic,” he said. “Now we are seeing people in the market who are genuine buyers.”


Harold Crye, co-founder of Crye-Leike Realtors, said despite improvements, a reduction in the number of foreclosures and inventory is needed for the market to “clean up.”


Mr. Crye and Mr. Bell said the first-time homebuyers market has grown in part because of the homebuyer’s tax credit, which expires April 30 and offers firsttime buyers an $8,000 credit.


Mr. Bell said the credit might help push “on the fence” buyers to purchase homes.


Realtors said low interest rates combined with a drop in home prices over the last year makes it a prime time for potential buyers.


In December the median home price in Chattanooga was $128,250, down 5.2 percent from December 2008 when it was $135,000, according to the Multiple Listing Service of the Chattanooga Association of Realtors.


Randy Durham, president of the Chattanooga Association of Realtors, said that the increase in pending home sales indicates that “the market has gained sufficient momentum on its own,” with a surge to occur this spring.


Kathy Tucker, a Crye-Leike Realtor, also noted that the Chattanooga market has weathered the recession better than others nationwide.


“Our real estate market here has always been very steady. We haven’t had the ups that the other parts of the country have, but we don’t have the lows either,” she said.


Realtors said the ramp up for Volkswagen will also help drive home sales.


With people ready to purchase homes, Realtors said the biggest challenge is securing financing for homes, but they are confident that local developments will be able to keep pace with the demand.


“We’re selling houses again ? at a pretty good pace. If things continue like this, this may be the best year I’ve ever had,” Mr. Bell said.