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By JOSHUA COFFMAN
ELIZABETHTOWN — New home sales in the heartland have not taken the toll seen in much of the country. And as national numbers show slight gains from a 17-year low, early indicators are that 2008 will be a bit better than 2007 for local builders and real-estate agents.
The Commerce Department reported a 3.3 percent rise in new homes sales in April. But it came on the heels of an 11 percent dip in March, as new home sales hit its weakest stride since April 1991.
However, data from the Heart of Kentucky Realtors Association show new home revenue outpacing last year by 30 percent — climbing from $20 million for January through May last year to $26 million during the same period this year.
The data include new homes in Hardin, Meade and Hart counties.
New houses also are sitting on the market for less time locally, with the average for sale sign pulled up an average of 23 days sooner.
“Our trend is always kind of bucking what the national is doing,” said Realtor Erika Gudenkauf, president of the association. “In Hardin County, we’re kind of leading a sheltered life.”
The area has not seen as much fluctuation as seen in states like California, Colorado or Florida.
Some of that can be attributed to expansion at Fort Knox, but that is not the only reason.
For instance, the Fort Riley, Kan., area expects to add thousands of new residents with the arrival of the 1st Infantry Division. But, according to Gudenkauf, more than 1,000 houses are sitting empty there.
Gudenkauf said low crime and tax rates, along with affordable housing and good schools, has brought more people into this area.
Plus low interest rates have let first-time homebuyers push existing homeowners into newer, more expensive homes, keeping the market moving.
Home builders also offer more incentives now than before, such as free upgrades to wood and tile floors in new homes.
Rick Roby works in the realty and construction trades.
“We’re busy on both ends,” he said.
However, he acknowledged that may not be the case for all contractors and agencies in the county.
“They’re coming back into the swing of things, even though it won’t be full throttle for a while.”
The amount spent to build new single-family homes in Elizabethtown and Radcliff in 2007 was down significantly over prior years.
The Commerce Department report showed growth in new home sales in every region of the country but the South, where sales slipped 2.4 percent.
The Northeast led the way with a 41.7 percent gain, followed by the West (8.3 percent) and Midwest (5.8 percent).
Joshua Coffman can be reached at (270) 505-1740. The Associated Press contributed to this story.