A Housing Market Bright Spot: The Quad Cities

A four-bedroom home on display in a new subdivision in Davenport, Iowa. i i

This four-bedroom home on display is part of a new subdivision in Davenport, Iowa, where 150 homes are planned over the next five years. Cheryl Corley/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Cheryl Corley/NPR
A four-bedroom home on display in a new subdivision in Davenport, Iowa.

This four-bedroom home on display is part of a new subdivision in Davenport, Iowa, where 150 homes are planned over the next five years.

Cheryl Corley/NPR
Chart: Where Things Are Looking Up
Nelson Hsu/NPR
Caroline Ruhl, president of Ruhl & Ruhl Realty i i

Caroline Ruhl, president of Ruhl & Ruhl Realty, the largest real estate company in the Quad Cities region, says her company sold nearly a third more homes in March and April than it did a year ago. Cheryl Corley/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Cheryl Corley/NPR
Caroline Ruhl, president of Ruhl & Ruhl Realty

Caroline Ruhl, president of Ruhl & Ruhl Realty, the largest real estate company in the Quad Cities region, says her company sold nearly a third more homes in March and April than it did a year ago.

Cheryl Corley/NPR
New homeowners Tim Sampiller and Stephanie Goetz. i i

Tim Sampiller and Stephanie Goetz hold the inspection report for their new three-bedroom house. They decided to buy a home before their wedding next May to take advantage of an $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers. Cheryl Corley/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Cheryl Corley/NPR
New homeowners Tim Sampiller and Stephanie Goetz.

Tim Sampiller and Stephanie Goetz hold the inspection report for their new three-bedroom house. They decided to buy a home before their wedding next May to take advantage of an $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers.

Cheryl Corley/NPR

For months, the news about the country's housing market has been gloomy. But that's slowly starting to change. The latest figures show pending home sales are on the rise, and some real estate bright spots are popping up as the prices of homes for sale rebound.

One of those spots is the Quad Cities region of Illinois and Iowa.

The Quad Cities is somewhat of a misnomer: It's actually five main cities that make up the region — Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa and Rock Island, Moline and East Moline in Illinois. They hug the state line at the Mississippi River.

Like many other parts of the country, the Quad Cities region has weathered some tough patches in the housing market. But Realtor Caroline Ruhl says during March and April, her company sold nearly a third more homes than it did a year ago. She attributes the jump in part to pent-up demand after six months of inactivity.

These days, about half of the homes sold in the country are foreclosed or distressed properties. That's not the case in the Quad Cities, where, despite the economic downturn, the combined 6.4 percent unemployment rate is below the national average of 9.4 percent.

'We're Doing Great Here'

Realtors Tammy Williams and Ronnie Pianca show off new and older homes for sale as they drive around the Quad Cities.

Williams says the average sales price is around $140,000, and houses don't stay on the market for very long — especially if one of the homes she sold recently is any indication: "First day on the market, seven showings and five offers."

And the home sold for $8,000 over list price. That's not so unusual for the Quad Cities. In the first quarter of the year, the median price of a single-family home jumped nearly 14 percent from a year ago to slightly more than $100,000. It was the second-highest median price jump in the country. That strength in the housing market, says Williams, has been good news for people trying to sell their homes.

"I have found that some of my buyers I have [come] across in the last couple of months think that every house they write an offer on they can get $10,000 to $15,000 to $20,000 off the house, and that is not the case here," she says. "The average out of all the home sales is 96 percent of the list price, so we're doing great here."

Solid Local Economy

The Quad Cities region hasn't been immune to the housing decline, but the market has been fairly steady and the local economy is solid. The Rock Island Arsenal is an economic stronghold, and Pianca, who handles relocations, says she's assisted plenty of employees who work at the headquarters of heavy machinery manufacturer John Deere, the area's second-largest employer.

"They have several facilities even within our region, and they tend to transfer people," she says. "You know, people we've moved out a few years ago move back, and they tend to do that circuit."

What's also stimulating the Quad Cities housing market is the federal government's $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers. That's what lured Stephanie Goetz and Tim Sampiller to buy their new three-bedroom home for $120,000.

"We're planning on getting married in May of next year and then we were going to start looking for a house. But with the $8,000 credit that, you know, President Obama instated, and with just so many great programs for now, we just decided that we should look," Sampiller says.

"Plus, when you walk in a house, you just know," adds Goetz. "We both walked in and we both just knew that it was our house."

Quad Cities Realtors say they have the buyers — what they need now are more houses on the market.

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