Aided by a big assist from Uncle Sam, home sales jumped sharply in the Sandusky area last month, according to statistics released Monday by the Ohio Association of Realtors.
Housing sales also rose in Ohio, and across the nation, thanks to an influx of first-time home buyers seeking to meet the deadline for a large tax credit.
In October, 240 homes sold in the Firelands Association of Realtors area, which includes Erie, Huron, Ottawa, Sandusky and Seneca counties. That is up 33.3 percent from the 180 homes sold in October 2008.
The average sales price rose 12.2 percent during the same time period, from $107,170 in October 2008 to $120,216 last month.
Home sales rose 7 percent statewide in Ohio during October. Across the U.S., they rose 10.1 percent, according to figures released Monday by the National Association of Realtors.
Jonathan Hall, president of the Ohio Association of Realtors, said that while a number of factors helped explain the October results, one included a surge of buyers seeking to meet a deadline at the end of November to obtain a first-time home buyer's tax credit of up to $8,000.
Similarly, Len Partin, a Port Clinton real estate agent who is president of the Firelands Association of Realtors, said the tax incentive helped persuade many buyers to move.
"That was like the end of the race, they had to hurry up and get that accomplished," Partin said.
The rising price of the homes that are being sold suggests that some of the inventory of houses owned by lenders has been used up, Partin said.
"Now, the little higher-priced properties are being sold," Partin said. "I would say the marketplace is recovering."
The increase in home sales across Ohio was the first time that's taken place in 14 months, Hall said.
"It's been a challenging marketplace for quite some time," Hall said. "So finally having home sales activity in Ohio post positive results is great news for the industry and all homeowners."
Partin and Hall both said they are relieved that Congress extended the tax credit into next spring and opened it up to most home buyers, not just customers looking for their first homes.
"With favorable pricing, attractive interest rates and sellers more realistic in their pricing expectations market conditions are ideal," Hall said.