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— Local home sales rallied in October as first-time buyers rushed to close deals ahead of the federal tax credit expiration previously set for November.

In Benton and Washington counties, real estate agents sold 514 homes - a healthy 27.8 increase from the previous year’s period, according to Mountdata, an independent market research firm.

The surge in new sales is welcome news for agents and title companies.

“We saw an uptick in our October closings that carried over to this month. With the extension of the tax credit we expect to see more existing buyers take advantage of the $6,500 credit through what is typically a slow winter season,” said Matt Kendall, chief operating officer of Waco Tile.

George Faucette, president of Coldwell Banker Faucette Real Estate, said his agents are excited because more buyers can now benefit from the expanded tax credit program.

“I do expect winter sales to be stronger than usual as more buyers come forward,” Faucette said.

From January through October localagents sold 4,703 homes valued at $764.14 million. This compared to 4,649 home sales worth $849.37 million in the same period last year.

While the number of homes sold is higher, the median sales price across the region is lower, said Paul Bynum, market analyst with Mountdata.

Bynum said the median sales price through October was $134,900, down 11 percent from a year ago. The median sales price refers to the middle, with half of the homes selling for more and half selling for less.

More buyers and fewer new homes under construction has whittled the inventory to a manageable 6- to 7-month supply for homes priced below $150,000, Bynum said. “At the $150,000 price point and below, the market is stabilizing,” he said.

A larger inventory of higher-priced homes give the overall market an 11.3-month supply listed for sale as of October.

Bynum said a healthy market balance lies in the 5- to 6-month supply range.

The average time for homes on the market is roughly 76 days, virtually unchanged from a year ago.

Faucette said sellers that aggressively price their homes right can go under contract much faster.

News, Pages 18 on 11/18/2009

Print Headline: Local Home Sales Rally

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