PROGRESS: Low rates, incentives spur real estate market |

PROGRESS: Low rates, incentives spur real estate market

Brian Duggan

Carson City real estate agents admit 2009 has been a year of struggle.

Housing starts are down to a trickle with 16 single-family homes this year, down from more than 40 in 2007. Inventory is up and lenders are holding back. But there have been bright spots with more potentially along the horizon, real estate agents say.

Homeowners started coming back into the market this year, said Realtor Charles Kitchen, thanks to government tax credits and low interest rates helping to decrease the number of homes on the market.

“We still may see a slight drop in values, but you’re seeing prices in the Carson City-Reno area leveling, we see the buyers coming, interest rates remain very pleasingly low,” Kitchen said. “Those are all good signs.”

In November, Congress extended the home buyer tax credit to April 30, now $8,000 for first-time buyers and $6,500 for homeowners looking for an upgrade.

Michelle Wood, 29, and Nathan Wood, 26, were among the first homeowners to use the federal home buyer tax credit when they purchased their 1,600-square-foot Dayton home for $201,000 in November 2008.

“For the most part the tax credit helped us in the sense that I had some debt, she had a little bit of debt, so it gave us a chance to pay off some bills … which ultimately helped us be here,” Nathan Wood said this fall. “It worked out, it did its job.”

Kimberly Seifert, a Realtor and owner of Lake Side Properties in Carson City, opened her real estate agency in September.She said the low cost of opening a business is her reason for getting into the market.

“I decided to because it is a great time to open a business, costs are way down,” Seifert said. “I’m just going to ride the wave.”

She also said 10 percent of all commissions made at her firm will be donated to The Solace Tree, a charity that helps families cope with the loss of a loved one.

Meanwhile, the commercial real estate market is still tight, agents say.

The problem for Carson City, said Coldwell Banker Commercial Realtor Andie Wilson, is the lack of financing available, even for well-qualified businesses.

But there are positives, said Wilson, who sits on a commercial real estate committee for the Northern Nevada Development Authority.

One in particular, Wilson said, is Rob Hooper, the executive director of the NNDA.

“He is what went right at NNDA,” Wilson said. “He is new to economic development and he looks at it through new eyes.”

That new approach, Wilson said, is seeking out businesses to fill potential niche markets.

Wilson also said her firm’s vacancy rate study for the local commercial real estate market was a positive this year. The report compiled three years of data to find a 20 percent retail vacancy rate. That translates to 587,797 square feet of vacant space out of 2.95 million in Carson City.

“We’ve been guessing,” Wilson said of the city’s vacancy rate. “Now we can at least quantify the problem – it’s hard to wrap your arms around a problem you can’t clearly define.”

Coldwell Banker Commercial Realtor Brad Bonkowski said there are 20 to 30 companies, many from California, currently looking at relocating to Carson City, but nothing is certain just yet.

“It could be a slow process, but it’s already happening,” he said.

Bruce Robertson, a senior adviser for commercial real estate firm Sperry Van Ness in Carson City, said the consolidation and completion of auto dealerships on South Carson Street, the extension of the freeway and new medical offices in the city are positive signs this year.

He also said the 90 percent decrease in water and sewer hook-up fees this year could also attract new businesses to Carson City.