The end of 2009 brought holiday cheer for Lawrence-area real estate agents as they look to 2010.
A federal income tax credit attracted more home buyers to the market, and it’s expected to spur activity into the spring as the region and nation try to rebound from the recession.
According to the Lawrence Board of Realtors’ recent numbers, 110 homes were sold in November, up from 69 sales that month in 2008 and 97 in 2007. This continues momentum from October when sales were also up compared with 2008.
“It’s been a very nice surprise for the end of the year,” said Randy Barnes, president of the Lawrence Board of Realtors and an agent with Realty Executives.
The average sale price in November was $176,900, which was slightly below $178,905 in 2008 and $221,810 two years ago.
Since October, a federal $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers has helped stabilize the market. The program was recently extended to April 30 for buyers to get a house under contract with two additional months to close.
The extension includes a $6,500 tax credit for some buyers who already own a home, which could help spur people wanting to move up into a more expensive home, Barnes said.
“Once we hit January, we think that there’s a window of time when people are going to have to start looking for houses fairly quickly, he said.
Douglas County Appraiser Steve Miles said the tax credit has helped steady the market in recent months. He’d like to believe the Douglas County market has hit the bottom and is turning around, but Miles said he still needs to see how things look in coming months.
Things still appear to be somewhat unstable in some areas nationally. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said new home sales in November nationally were down 11 percent compared with October and down 9 percent from November 2008. Lawrence had 17 new home sales in November, up from only four that month in 2008 and down from 28 in November 2007.
Miles had been worried about what would happen if federal lawmakers had let the tax credit expire in October. Now that they extended it into the spring, he said, he’s still not sure what the market will do when the program ends in April.
“That’s the scary part,” Miles said.
Barnes said real estate agents and buyers are watching the economy and the job market right now, but he still thinks the area numbers in recent months point to a turnaround.
“We’re tracking along with the average in the nation, which is good,” Barnes said.