Finally, good news for the housing market - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Finally, good news for the housing market

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 By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Sales are up nationwide and in our area. Nationally, sales of existing homes jumped 5% from January to February.

The numbers went up 10% in southwest Georgia. Falling home prices are encouraging more people to buy, but that's not the only incentive.

Over the last several months, realtors say investors buying foreclosures seemed to be driving the market, but now, lower interest rates, tax incentives, and builder incentives on new home purchases have first time homeowners diving into the market.

After renting for more than 20 years, Velesa Henton is now a home owner, signing her first mortgage last month.

"It's great," Henton said. "Actually they had to tell me I could finally breathe after the closing because your like holding your breath until everything is finally over."

After looking for more than nine months, everything just seemed to come together for Henton, but an $8,000 tax incentive for first time homeowners or a new owner after three years sealed the deal.

"That was an incentive, it really gave us the incentive to look harder, that's really what pushed us to buy our home," Henton said.

Albany Board of Realty President Gary Eller says Henton isn't the only one, 59 homes were sold in February in Dougherty and Lee Counties, up from 51 the month before and as Henton said it's the incentives driving the market.

"You can get an FHA loan now with as little as three and half percent down payment which is not a lot of money to have to come up with and the good news is now with the bailout of the investors buying the bad toxic loans from the banks hopefully that's going to free up some more credit," Eller says.

With sellers reducing their prices to get their homes to sell, the tax incentives and low interest rates, realtors say more buyers are finding it hard to resist.

"If you've been sitting on the side lines and even thinking about buying a home, now is the time to get off the fence and make the move and take advantage of this 8,000 tax credit because it's only good for this year," Eller said.

Which could mean more good news in 2009.

While the market finally seems to be improving, it isn't as good as it was last year. While sales are up from January to February, they're still not what they were in 2008, when 69 homes sold in January and 76 sold in February.

One more thing that may be helping out buyers, a government report says American home prices fell 6.3% in January from the same month last year.

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