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Monday, February 02, 2009

Housing Market Not So Bad

By Patrick Fanelli,
''The nice thing is we never had a bubble, so we never had a burst.''
Almost 200 fewer homes were sold last year in Chautauqua County compared to 2007, according to the Chautauqua County Board of Realtors.
That represents an 18 percent decline in a one-year period, a symptom of the housing crisis and recession that is strangling the nation.
That may sound bad, but it was worse all across New York state and the nation, says Jan Murray, Board of Realtors executive director.
''New York went down 22.9 percent overall, and we are doing better than the rest of the country,'' she said. ''Chautauqua County just remains pretty stable. ... We just don't have the booms, so we don't have the drops.''
A total of 1,046 homes were sold in Chautauqua County in 2007 compared to 862 in 2008. Though fewer homes were sold, the median home price continues to climb, having risen 2.3 percent last year, according to the Board of Realtors. That's something that can't be said for so many areas throughout the country experiencing significant declines.
The 18 percent drop in sales only applies to single-family dwellings. Factor in commercial real estate, farm land, multi-family homes and other properties, and it only decreased 9 percent during 2009.
''The nice thing is we never had a bubble, so we never had a burst,'' said Richard McMahon, Board of Realtors president.
According to McMahon, the housing market slowed in November and December - a usual occurrence when winter weather and the holidays arrive.
''Overall, it's been okay. We had the traditional slowdown in November and December, but we always do, even in the best of times,'' McMahon said. ''Now it has picked up a little bit. ... Who knows what this year will bring.''
Though McMahon believes the winter weather this season - which is some of the worst the region has seen in years - isn't helping the housing market, it could end up helping the market along Chautauqua Lake.
Especially in Burtis Bay, aquatic weeds - a nuisance for lakefront property owners - weren't much of a problem last summer, a phenomenon many attribute at least in part to the last year's weather.
According to McMahon, the Burtis Bay housing market picked up steam last summer, not only in the numbers but in the sale prices as well. If the thick ice cover and lack of sunshine keeps the weeds at bay again this year, McMahon thinks Burtis Bay could be booming a few years down the road like so many other areas around the lake.
''That's been a big plus,'' he said.
Low mortgage rates and falling prices have made this a good time to buy a home. Federal lawmakers also established a $7,500 tax credit for first-time homebuyers through July 1 that acts as an interest-free loan from the federal government that must be paid back over a 15-year period.
According to McMahon and Murray, a jump start in the local housing market is expected in the weeks and months to come as spring approaches.
''(Realtors) say it's picking up,'' Ms. Murray said. ''It's usually about March and April that we see people listing homes and houses being looked at.''

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