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Sullivan, Washington County housing market conditions don't mirror national reports

Staff Report • Oct 11, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Despite scary headlines and breathless reports about an impending financial crisis the housing market in Northeast East Tennessee doesn't mirror national reports. Yes, the market has slowed, but it's no way near crisis proportions. Ivan Tilley, president of the NE Tenn. Board of Realtors, shared some data about the market in Sullivan and Washington counties late last week as well as his insights into the condition of the area housing market. Here's the quick view: In Sullivan County the medium sale price has steadily increased during the last three years, but the total number of homes sold has declined each year. In Washington County there has been a decline in the medium home sale price, and the average price has dropped. A 3-year Sept. 1 to Sept. 1 comparison of the data for the past three years is at the bottom of this report. Tilley said he has not seen a tighter credit market despite national reports. The bottom line is qualified home buyers can get next day loans - big emphasis on the term "qualified buyers." Tilley says during the past year the number of VA and FHA loans has doubled in Washington and Sullivan counties. "Our market is in better shape than the markets you hear about in the national media. We didn't see the incredible rise in home prices so we're not seeing sharp declines." Since the region was ranked as one of the best places in the nation to retire, there's been a lot of retirees moving here, Tilley said. "I don't have a crystal ball, but I think the area housing market will remain stable." This information is a stark contrast to the news last week that big-city home prices in July were down 16.3% from a year earlier. That information came from the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city housing index showed the largest 12-month decline since it began in 2000. Home values in all 20 cities fell year-over-year. Las Vegas and Phoenix reported year-over-year declines of nearly 30%. Miami reported a decline of 28.2% from July 2007. In Sullivan County the average home sale price Sept. 1 '07 compared to Sept. 1 '08 increased $1,000. In Washington County the average home sale price for the same period decreased $4,900 - a drop, but nowhere near the double digit declines cited in the S&P/Case-Shiller index. And, the National Association of Realtors said last week that the median sales price of an existing home in August was $203,100, down 9.5% from a year earlier. That was the largest 12-month decline since 1999. The median price of a new home fell to $221,900 in August, down 5.5% from a year earlier, the Commerce Department also said last week. The median price in Sullivan County for the Sept. 1 07 to Sept. 1 08 period was $127,000. In Washington County the median price was $155,000.

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