Low home prices lure local buyers

SANDUSKY Kelly Decker is a nuclear medical technologist. She is a college graduate. She makes $
May 24, 2010



Kelly Decker is a nuclear medical technologist. She is a college graduate. She makes $52,000 per year.

And at 25 years old, Decker is looking to purchase her first house.

While her parents would let her continue living at home — and she likes living at home — record-low housing prices in Sandusky and throughout the nation may be too tempting to pass up.

“With how the economy’s gone, it just seems like the right time,” she said. “Interest rates are really low. Housing prices are really low. I’m not in any rush — I don’t have to move — but it’s a good time to buy.”

Decker is just one of millions of Americans jumping into the housing market.

The National Association of Realtors announced this week that sales of existing homes increased 5.1 percent nationally in January.

It was the largest monthly sales jump since July 2003, with first-time buyers accounting for about half of all transactions, according to the Associated Press.

And with the average home prices in Sandusky having plummeted from $75,480 to $41,650 in the past 18 months, people are starting to buy again, said Ruth DeHenning, the chief executive officer of the Firelands Association of Realtors.

“I just came from a national conference yesterday,” said DeHenning, who was attending a conference in Colorado Springs, Colo. for realty association executives. “Almost every association said the (sales) numbers in their areas are rising.”

Scott Biechele, president of the Sandusky-based Vacationland Realty, said interest has spiked locally, keeping with that trend.

He attributed the increased interest to many factors: The improved weather, the number of foreclosed homes and available homes and the sense that the economy will turn around soon.

But he said a lot of it had to do with tumbling home prices. According to First American CoreLogic and its LoanPerformance Home Price Index, home prices in Sandusky decreased 12.06 percent in January compared to January 2008.

Biechele said whether they’re looking for a first home, hoping to expand or wanting to fix up a house and turn a profit, buyers see opportunities.

“We’re seeing a lot of activity right now,” he said. “If you’re a buyer, this is as low as it’s going to get.”

Biechele said the market especially favors first-time home buyers. Under President Barack Obama’s stimulus plan, first-time buyers can receive as much as $8,000 in tax credits.

And with record-low interest rates for new mortgages hovering around 4.5 percent, Biechele expects the credit markets to thaw out this summer.

Combining those factors with tumbling housing prices, experts believe buyer activity will only increase.

Decker said she’s been looking at houses for two years, but her interest has piqued as prices have plummeted.

“As long as prices are low, I’ll keep looking,” she said. “Like I said, I’m not in a hurry, but if I find the right one, (I’ll) buy it.”