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Published January 28 2010

Local Realtors enjoy 2009 home sales gains

Sales of existing Fargo-Moorhead homes are on track again, local real estate officials say.

“We’re back to normal,” Peggy Isakson, president of the Fargo-Moorhead Area Association of Realtors, said of 2009 sales.

The value of existing homes sold in 2009 rose to $368.5 million from $351.3 million in the previous year, a gain of 4.88 percent, association figures show.

In 2009, 2,467 existing homes were sold. That was 4 percent more than the 2,370 existing homes sold the previous years.

The average sales price of existing homes in 2009 was $158,080, an increase of 3 percent from $153,395 in 2008.

In 2008, the average sales prices of existing Fargo-Moorhead homes fell 1.7 percent from the previous year. It was the first time in 14 years that the average sales price fell locally.

The 2009 increase of 3 percent is a return to what’s typical for the community, said Isakson, with Coldwell Banker First Realty in Fargo.

Realtors both locally and nationally said 2009 home sales were helped by the first-time homebuyers tax credit.

Sales growth locally in 2009 was especially encouraging because of spring flooding, said Jennifer Sturlaugson, sales manager for PRG Home Sales in Fargo.

Fortunately, sales picked up sharply after the flood-impacted first quarter, said Kris Sheridan, president of Park Co. Realtors in Fargo.

“We ended up having a very good year, and most of the sales came in just nine months,” she said.

Nationally, the number of existing homes sold in 2009 rose 4.9 from 2008, topping the Fargo-Moorhead increase of 4 percent,

Isakson said that reflects the national housing industry’s severe struggles in 2008.

Locally, “We didn’t see that big a dip” in 2008 and consequently saw less of a rebound last year, she said.

One disturbing trend nationally:

Existing home sales in December 2009 dropped

16.7 percent from the previous year.

The December 2009 downturn reflects a surge of first-time homebuyers who rushed to complete sales before the original November deadline for the special tax credit, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Fargo-Moorhead existing-home sales fared much better in December than the national average, which local Realtors say reflects the strength of the market.

Locally, 129 existing homes were sold in December 2009. That was down less than

1 percent from 130 from the same month a year earlier.

Realtors say January sales have been good, thanks in part to the first-time homebuyers credit.

The credit provides a tax break of as much as $8,000 for a first-time homebuyer and up to $6,500 for a homebuyer who owned and lived in their previous home for at least five consecutive years out of the past eight years.

For more information: www.federalhousingtaxcredit.com.

The homebuyer credit remains in effect until April 30.

The credit is extended until April 30, 2011, for qualified members of the military and the Foreign Service, as well as employees of the intelligence community who are ordered on a period of official extended duty outside the United States, according to the Internal Revenue Service Web site.

“We really need to get the word out” about both the April 30, 2010, and April 30, 2011, deadlines, Isakson said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jonathan Knutson at (701) 241-5530