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Now, while most of Karen Schock's neighbors are back in their homes, 60 or so miles up in Mississippi, things are looking pretty good for homebuyers and sellers in the Quad City region of Iowa and Illinois. And as home sales finally start to show signs of life across the rest of the country, NPR's Cheryl Corley reports that the Quad Cities market is growing even quicker.
CHERYL CORLEY: The Quad Cities is somewhat of a misnomer. It's actually five main cities that make up the region, Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa, and in Illinois, Rock Island, Moline and East Moline. They hug the Illinois-Iowa border at the Mississippi River.
Like many other parts of the country, the Quad Cities has weathered some tough patches in its 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.
Ms. CAROLINE RUHL (Realtor): I attribute part of that to pent-up demand because nobody did anything for six months.
CORLEY: 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 unemployment rate is below the national average at 6.5 percent.
Ms. TAMMY WILLIAMS (Realtor): We are in Bettendorf, Iowa, presently. And we're going to go into Davenport and look at a new subdivision that's going up.
CORLEY: Realtors Tammy Williams and Ronnie Pianca are showing off new and older homes for sale as they drive around the Quad Cities.
Ms. WILLIAMS: The average sales price around here is around $140,000.
CORLEY: And Williams says houses don't stay on the market for very long, especially if one of the homes she sold recently is any indication.
Ms. WILLIAMS: First day on the market, seven showings and five offers.
CORLEY: And the home sold for $8,000 over the 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. And that strength in the housing market, says Williams, has been good news for people trying to sell their homes.
Ms. WILLIAMS: And I have found that some of my buyers that I have, you know, came across in the last couple of months think that every house they write an offer on they can get 10 to 15 to $20,000 off the house. That is not the case here. But still, the average out of all the home sales is 96 percent of the list price, so we're doing great here.
CORLEY: The Quad Cities 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.
Ms. RONNIE PIANCA (Realtor): You know, they have several facilities even within our region, and they tend to transfer people, you know, people that we've moved out a few years ago moved back, and they tend to do that circuit.
CORLEY: 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.
Mr. TIM SAMPILLER: 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.
Ms. STEPHANIE GOETZ: And plus, when you walk in a house, you just know. We both walked in and we both just knew it's our house, so.
CORLEY: Quad City Realtors say they have the buyers, what they need now are more houses on the market. And with home prices strong in this region, it may not be too difficult to convince skeptical Quad City homeowners that now is a good time to sell.
Cheryl Corley, NPR News.
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