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house_for_saleRISMEDIA, December 28, 2009—(MCT)—November 2009 was a positive month for the real estate industry as home sales surged in a majority of markets across the country. Spurred by low prices and the extended and expanded home buyer tax credit, home sales were up in Las Vegas, Nevada; Ohio, the Midwest; and upstate New York, according to reports late last week. While other reports point to sales being down in California, home prices nationally were up—causing for a wave of optimism to be felt throughout the industry.

Here’s a look at some of the markets across the country that received positive news in the housing sector for the month of November 2009:

Las Vegas, Nevada

By Hubble Smith

Spurred by low prices and the extension of the federal tax credit, existing home sales in Las Vegas increased 50.8% to 3,952 in November 2009, Las Vegas-based SalesTraq recently reported. The surge ended a seven-month streak of sales topping 4,000, but still shows strong demand for home purchases heading into the traditionally slow holiday period.

The median resale price of $125,000 is down 27.5% from the same month a year ago. However, it’s a $2,000 bump from the previous month. The new-home segment continues to struggle, though November’s 598 escrow closings were the highest monthly total for the year, a decrease of just 1.3% from a year ago. Median price tumbled 19.4% to $198,466, the first time it’s been below $200,000 since 2002.

Locally, the avalanche of foreclosures predicted for Las Vegas has failed to materialize. November’s 1,477 foreclosures represent a 27% decrease from a year ago, the fifth month of the year with declining year-over-year numbers. “In our view, Las Vegas may be entering a new real estate era,” consultant Steve Bottfeld of Marketing Solutions said. “Whether you call it the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end, there is no question that the residential market is in a transition from what it was to what it will become.”

Housing analyst Dennis Smith of Home Builders Research counted 604 new home sales and 3,696 existing home sales in November, a 6.1% decrease and 46.8% increase, respectively, from the same month a year ago. “Bottom line is this indicates a very flat recovery,” Smith said.

Ohio

By Jim Weiker

During November 2009, 1,839 homes were sold in the Columbus, Ohio area, nearly 60% more than in the same month last year and the highest November sales in four years, the Columbus Board of Realtors reported.

Jill Rudler, who runs the Rudler Professional Group, part of Real Living HER and other real estate experts attribute the boom to the federal tax break for first-time buyers who were racing to complete deals before the original Nov. 30, 2009 expiration date. The National Association of Realtors estimated that about 2 million homebuyers have taken advantage of the credit and predicts that an additional 2.4 million will use it by the middle of next year. First-time buyers made up about half of all transactions last month.

The abundance of new homebuyers also accounts for November’s average sales price of $145,589 in central Ohio, up slightly from a year ago, but well below the $179,000 peak of 2006, during the height of the housing boom.

Statewide, sales rose 31% compared with those of last November, with Columbus leading the way. Among large markets, Cincinnati and Dayton also posted better-than-average gains.

Midwest

By Courtney Hudson

Home sales in the Midwest jumped 58% in November 2009, the strongest showing of any region, as first-time buyers rushed to claim a temporary federal tax credit.

“I think it’s going to be a very good year this next year,” said Sedalia, Missouri real estate agent Mark Pohl. While the Sedalia area has been in a downhill market for about three years, Pohl believes that the area hit rock bottom in March 2009. Since March, there has been a slow increase in the number of homes sold in the area. “I think it’s progressively gotten better,” Pohl said.

The National Association of Realtors recently reported that there were 106,000 completed sales in the 11-state Midwest region and the median home price was flat at $140,800.

The tax credit deadline drove sales across most of the Midwest. “It got everybody moving,” said Don Godwin, owner of the Re/Max Real Estate Group in Des Moines. “First-time home buyers have probably been most of my business,” Pohl said.

California

By Kevin Smith

Home prices rose in Los Angeles County and California last month but sales were off from October 2009, the California Association of Realtors (CAR) recently reported.

The county’s median home price hit $359,670 in November 2009, a 3.9% gain from the previous month and up 0.1% from a year earlier. Home sales in the county showed a 10.8% decline compared with October but were up 7.2% from November 2008, according to CAR figures.

“The decline in activity is normal,” said David Baldridge, a Realtor with First Team Real Estate, Inc. in Whitier. “You don’t see nearly as many buyers in November as you would in August or September, but prices are still going up.”

“The extension and expansion of the tax credit until April 30, 2010, along with low interest rates, should continue to positively impact the market in coming months,” said CAR President Steve Goddard.

Several area cities posted big year-over-year price gains. La Mirada’s median price rose 14.3% in November to $400,000 compared with $350,000 a year earlier. Other notable gains included Diamond Bar (13.9%), Alhambra (12.6%), La Crescenta (12.3%) and Monterey Park (10.9%).

On the other hand, many communities saw their median home prices fall, including San Gabriel (-13.4%), Baldwin Park (-9.7%), El Monte (-6.1%) and La Verne (-8.9%).

Albany, New York

By Chris Churchill

The federal tax credit for first-time buyers sparked a rush to buy homes in November 2009, boosting property sales across the Capital Region. The numbers led some observers to proclaim that the region’s housing market is now headed for full recovery. But the November surge was apparently fueled by the tax credit’s anticipated expiration date, leading to worries that the boost won’t last.

The one-month numbers from the Greater Capital Association of Realtors are certainly impressive: In the Capital Region’s four core counties, the number of closed single-family home sales jumped 46% from the same month a year ago. They were even up significantly compared to sales from 2007.

“It’s been a tough year, but I’ve seen a resurgence,” said Miguel Berger, president of TechValley Homes Real Estate. “I think we hit bottom in the summer, and now it’s on the way up.”

Yet home prices are down in much of the region, despite the uptick in activity. And not everyone is sure the sales surge will continue. James Ader, chief executive of the Realtors’ association, warned that December home sales might slump, because so many buyers rushed to complete sales in November.

But there are reasons to believe the real estate economy may avoid a crash. First, Congress has extended the $8,000 tax credit until June, 2010, and even expanded it with a new tax credit of up to $6,500 for buyers who already own homes. Also, the overall economy seems to be improving, which could make potential buyers more confident about a purchase. Home prices are relatively affordable, when compared to recent years. And mortgage interest rates remain very low.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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