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Local home sales decline after strong 2010

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Overall, market here remains relatively stable

By Sarah Bennett

After a significant boost from the Base Realignment and Closure initiative in 2010, residential home sales in the Hardin County area declined slightly in 2011.

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According to numbers from the Heart of Kentucky Association of Realtors, the number of residential sales in its area fell from 2,207 in 2010 to 1,643 in 2011.

HKAR President Steve Heartsill said despite the decrease, the county’s housing market has been relatively stable compared to other areas of the country such as California or Michigan. He credited that to the foresight of those involved in the Hardin County housing market.

Heartsill and Greg Pawley, president and CEO of The Cecilian Bank, said if 2010 is taken out of the picture, housing sales have remained consistent since the market reached a low in 2008 with $441 million in sales.

Heartsill said the housing market nosedived in 2008 as the economy entered a recession.

“When you lose jobs, you lose housing,” he said.

Fortunately for Hardin County, BRAC arrived during that time, hitting a high note between the end of 2009 and close of 2010, Heartsill said, when many new families relocated to the area because of increased employment at Fort Knox.

While many of these families purchased homes, many men and women in uniform chose to rent apartments or live in military housing on post, he said.

Besides completion of BRAC, September saw 1.3 million foreclosed homes enter the market across the country, which had significant effects in housing markets close to home and nationwide. The effect in Hardin County was the value of homes declined 2.5 percent, he said.

In 2011, a lot of home sales were in the $150,000 range, Pawley said. Overall, buyers seemed more interested in purchasing moderately priced residences.

“Financing options aren’t as easy to come by,” he said. “Loan underwriting and the mortgage market are tighter than they used to be.”

Since the recession hit, Heartsill said he’s observed that buyers appear to be educating themselves in the process of buying a home, which is a positive sign. Buyers appear to be purchasing new and existing homes.

“When you’ve got somebody that stays within their means, they won’t foreclose on a home,” he said.

Elizabethtown contractor Paul Brantingham of Brantingham Builders Inc. was the most positive about the area’s housing market. The contractor, who has been in the business since the 1970s, said the market has made observable improvements since 2008-09.

Most notably, there are people showing interest in new homes, which adds “vitality” to the housing market by creating a domino effect, he said.

“People have been putting things off, and finally, they’re just done putting things off,” Brantingham said.

Three weeks into 2012, Heartsill said the year already is off to a good start with a few sales under way, which is unusual to see in January.

With this in mind, he believes Hardin County’s housing market has a bright future ahead and will continue to grow steadily rather than decline.

“Once people realize the worst is over with, they’ll jump on the opportunity to purchase a home,” Heartsill said. “This is the time to buy.”

Pawley echoed Heartsill’s optimism, saying he believes home sales will stay on par with previous years rather than decrease. He’s hoping a large employer will come to Hardin County, perhaps at the Glendale industrial megasite, and create tremendous growth in the economy.

“Hardin County needs the next big thing,” Pawley said.

Sarah Bennett can be reached at (270) 505-1750 or sbennett@thenewsenterprise.com.