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Swell in home sales good for area market

Return of soldiers might factor into recent upswing

POSTED: August 3, 2011 9:25 a.m.

From burning candles that smell like baked goods to burying statues of St. Joseph in the yard, there are many tricks of the trade for homeowners looking to sell.

One area home seller, Mark Hiler, said he and his wife are fortunate that they did not have to resort to any of these tricks to get an offer on their 1,200-square-foot Hinesville home that was built in the 1980s.

“We didn’t do any of that,” he said, but the family’s tidy habits and general upkeep likely contributed to him receiving an offer only 32 days after listing his house in May. “My wife is a clean freak. My house is always clean.” 

If Hiler’s closing goes off without a hitch, his will be one in an increasing number of homes to move on the market.

According to Kathy Villafane, president of the Hinesville Area Board of Realtors, home sales for May, June and July are up from the same time last year — a trend that makes her optimistic.

The Liberty County area saw small gains in May, with 40 homes sold at an average sold price of $110,548, up from 37 homes sold at an average of $130,719 last year. This year, 118 new home listings were created during the month, while only 69 home listings were created last May.

In June, 55 homes were sold at an average of $141,680, and 114 homes were listed. The number of homes sold is more than double last June’s amount of 25 at $147,543. Then, 78 homes were listed. 

“June, to me, was a very crucial month, due to the tax credit,” she said. The economic stimulus package created an $8,000 tax credit for buyers who signed contracts by April 30 and closed on their homes before June 30, she said.

In July, the sales were still up, with 41 sales this year at an average of $122,882 compared to 33 homes sold at $138,225 last year.

Surrounding areas are showing a turnaround, too.

Ludowici and Long County also have had booms in existing home sales, Villafane said. Last July, only four homes sold in the area. This July, 23 homes sold. In June, another 23 homes sold in Ludowici, up from 14 last June.

“That is a growing market for us,” she said.

But these local sales figures paint a different picture from national sales.

On Monday, the Associated Press reported that nationwide sales declined over three months, according to June numbers provided by the National Association of Realtors. 

Another factor in the local increase is the return of many 3rd Infantry Division soldiers, which has resulted in increased buyer interest, Villafane said. 

“Some of the foreclosures have brought the market down,” she said. “And a lot of times with the transitioning of our clientele, a lot of them don’t want to be stuck with a mortgage and do not want to rent out their homes, and they are sometimes willing to accept a lower asking price.”

And though market projections still are volatile, Villafane said she also has seen an uptick in new construction homes, which are reasonably priced for the amount of square footage, she said.

“This is still a great time to buy because the interest rates are at an all-time low — there are great sales prices and lots of inventory,” she said. “I believe the worst is behind us. We are not out of the storm, but we can definitely see the light.”

One obstacle still facing potential home buyers is that banks have tightened their lending requirements, which reduces the number of load qualifications and therefore the buyer pool, she said. “However, more potential buyers are walking through our doors,” she added.

Though Hiler’s experience has been mostly positive, he maintains that buying or selling a house is a stressful experience on either end. 

Hiler, recently retired from the Air Force, plans to move his family back to their native Kentucky after closing on his home this week, an event that marks the end of a stressful journey.

Hiler and his wife bought their home five years ago with the knowledge that they would likely sell it. But that did not stop them from putting time and money into it for some cosmetic changes and upkeep, he said. He and his wife installed new carpets and linoleum floors and replaced the roof and home’s air conditioner.

“The biggest thing I can say about the whole selling a home is that people have to be willing to put money into the home so that it can sell,” he said.

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