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Real estate sales fall 36% in the year

POSTED: September 15, 2007 5:05 a.m.
Hinesville’s real estate sales have fallen 36 percent in the last year, and local Realtors expect the numbers to continue to dwindle as thousands of soldiers remain in Iraq.
In comparison, however, the market suffered a much larger blow following the high-volume deployment in 2005.
To date, 357 properties have been sold, while only a total of 321 were sold in 2005, George Holtzman of Holtzman Realtors, said. He based the statistics on information provided by the Hinesville Area Board of Realtors.
Comparing 2007 with 2005 figures, he noted sales are up 11 percent and growing. This past year, when soldiers returned from the 2005 deployment, real estate sales rose to 560, and Holtzman, along with other local realtors, are banking on the same kind of sales growth following the expected return of troops in the spring of 2008. He said soldiers deployed overseas are able to research real estate listings and make purchases online.
But he cautioned complications could arise.
Washington and Pentagon officials have begun talking about further extending the current deployments of troops (particularly Fort Stewart's 3rd Infantry troops) to a period longer than 15 months.
Congressman Jack Kingston (R-Savannah) has already said he would support the extension if the military requests it.
In regards to the extension, Allen Brown of Century 21 said, “Anything past 12 months is too long for our soldiers, let alone 15 months or longer. One of the biggest concerns is for our soldiers to return safely, and the present sales losses will eventually be recouped when they come back in 2008.”
The economic problems resulting from the interim lack of soldiers will worsen when roughly 4,000 4th brigade troops deploy from Fort Stewart in October, Brown said.
“Typically, there is a rotation of the military where soldiers are arriving and buying homes or leaving and selling homes. But that is not the case with this deployment. Currently, there is not much of a rotation since so many are gone for such a prolonged period of time, and we hope the soldiers begin to return when they’re expected” Century 21 real estate agent Linda Deloach said.
Despite the setbacks, the military community of Hinesville will be mostly untouched by the current mortgage-lending crisis throughout the country, Holtzman said.
“The (Veterans Administration) loans are still relatively easy to get, and they account for 90 percent of the financing we do in Hinesville,” Holtzman said. “The interest rates are fixed so the soldiers won’t encounter spikes in interest, and the VA interest rate (as of this past Tuesday) is 6.5 percent.”
The neighboring town of Richmond Hill has seen some financial effects from the absence of the troops, but not on the same level of Hinesville’s, Lynne Butler Bayens of Remax Realty, said.
“The homes in Richmond Hill are typically more expensive than in Hinesville, and we attract a different military buyer. We attract military officers with children in school who are less likely to deploy,” she said.
 

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