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By Brook Stockberger

RISMEDIA, January 20, 2009-(MCT)-With interest rates low and a wide selection of houses on the market, Las Cruces, New Mexico real estate agents say that early 2009 is a good time to buy a home.

“We’re starting to see more buyer interest, and I got to tell you, they need to be interested,” said Chuck Olson with EXIT Realty Horizons, who also is the president of the Las Cruces Association of Realtors. “There’s a lot of inventory and prices are down.”

John Hadley of Desert Star Realty said he believes Las Cruces is experiencing “an exceptional buyer’s market.”

The large inventory is due to the national recession that’s touched all corners of the country. The economic woes did not hit the real estate market in Las Cruces as hard, but still had a significant impact.

The final numbers for 2008 tell the story of a sluggish housing market. According to figures provided by Steinborn Inc. Real Estate research department, the total number of homes sold in Las Cruces last year was 1,510. That is down 532 from 2007 and 925 from 2006’s total of 2,435 homes sold.

The dollar volume of home sales in 2008 totaled $315,760,723, the lowest since 2004 and a drop of more than $193 million from 2006’s total of $509,183,540.

John L. Hummer, owner/broker with Steinborn Inc. Real Estate, said there will be light at the end of the tunnel if Congress approves tax credits for home buyers as part of an expected economic stimulus plan.

“If you look at lowering interest rates into the 4% range and you provide tax credit for all buyers-and make that an open window for all of 2009-you have to think that will be a positive jolt to the system,” he said. “As the housing industry goes, so goes the economy. If you don’t sell a house, you don’t have a driveway to park a car in, or a place to put a washer and dryer.”

Another silver lining is the average price of homes sold has not declined much in Las Cruces. In fact, the average price of a home sold in 2008 was actually $3 more than the hot market of 2006, although at $209,113, it is still down more than $5,000 from 2007.

“Values have held very well,” said Kelley Coffeen, vice president of sales and marketing and a qualifying broker with Emerick Real Estate. She said she knows someone in Las Vegas, Nev., “whose house is $50,000 less than what her mortgage is.”

She said real estate agents need to be aware of the realities of the current market and what potential buyers are facing.

“It’s a very competitive market,” she said. “Realtors are working harder today for everything they sell.”

Still, she hopes people understand that money is available.

“The Realtor now has to understand all the options on financing for their clients; the Realtor has to be up to speed on every opportunity to get that property financed for the buyer. There is money out there to be leant from traditional banks to mortgage lenders.”

Copyright © 2009, Las Cruces Sun-News, N.M.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.