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Tax Credits Lead to Area Home Sales Bump

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By Julian Emerson

RISMEDIA, August 17, 2010—(MCT)—Home sales during the second quarter of this year increased — in some cases significantly — in all but one of 12 west-central Wisconsin counties compared with the same period last year. But that doesn’t mean good times for the real estate market.

Those higher home sales figures largely were the result of federal homebuyer tax credits of $6,500 and $8,000 combined with low interest rates, fueling a flurry of home purchases before the credits expired, local Realtors say.

Now that they have expired (qualifying purchases had to be closed by June 1), home sales have slowed significantly. Sales in Eau Claire County for July were down 39 percent compared with the same month last year. Likewise, Chippewa County home sales for last month dropped 36 percent compared with the same period a year ago. In Dunn County, sales plummeted 45 percent.

“It’s really slow right now,” said Eau Claire Realtor Dave FitzGerald, president of the Realtors Association of Northwest Wisconsin.

The homebuyers credit program provided a boost to sales, FitzGerald said, prompting people to buy homes sooner than they otherwise would have. That home sales spike this spring has left a gap in home sales now, pushing down figures that typically are soft in July and August.

A continued sluggish economy also has kept sales figures depressed, he said.

“Some people are concerned they can’t even sell their house, so they’re not even trying,” FitzGerald said.

Count Terry Spitz of Eau Claire among them. He said he has considered selling his south side home for about 18 months “but I can’t get what it’s worth in this market.”

The home sales surge this spring marked a continued increase of home sales throughout the state. Statewide, sales during April, May and June were up 19.4 percent compared with that period last year.

Counties in this part of the state experienced a similar trend. Trempealeau County had the largest increase, at 53.3 percent, followed by Chippewa County at 36.1 percent and Rusk County at 33.3 percent.

Even those counties with a larger number of home sales saw sales growth. In Eau Claire County, 491 homes were sold from April through June compared with 441 during that time last year. Similarly, Chippewa County logged 260 sales compared with 191 in 2009.

Buffalo County was the only county to experience a decrease. Fourteen homes were sold there during the second quarter of this year, down from 26 a year ago.

Bill Malkasian, Wisconsin Realtors Association president, said while the second-quarter sales figures are a plus, improvement in the economy is needed to sustain the long-term health of the real estate sector. He noted that housing prices appear to have stabilized after modest declines and hopes that factor combined with continued low interest rates will improve the housing market.

Emerson can be reached at 715-830-5911, 800-236-7077 or julian.emerson@ecpc.com.

Copyright (c) 2010, The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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