Bargains abound as home prices continue to fall |

Bargains abound as home prices continue to fall

Trina Kleist
Staff Writer

A single father, a middle-aged woman and a young family are some of the Nevada County residents who are taking advantage of still-low housing prices to get into their own homes.

Median prices continue to plunge: The median price of all houses and condominiums that closed escrow in March for all of Nevada County was nearly $239,000, down 25 percent from a year before, according to DataQuick Information Systems, a tracking firm in San Diego.

But “sales are up,” said Diane Helms of Sierra Gold/ERA Cornerstone Realty.

And low prices offer “great opportunity,” she added. “Interest rates still are good. It’s not easy. I’m not trying to paint a rosy picture. But if you’re a first-time home buyer, have good credit and have a job, you’re going to get a loan.

“Most of my sales this year have been to first-time home buyers, and it’s really rewarding,” Helms said, recounting the stories of some of her own clients.

Would-be homeowners should do their homework before pinning their hopes on some of the short-sale residences that are keeping prices low.

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Short sales “take a long time,” Helms warned.

“If your credit is together, talk to a lender to get preapproved before you start looking for a house,” Helms advised. “There are a lot of different loan programs.”

New funding has come into the U.S. Department of Agriculture loan program geared toward low-income buyers, she added.

Meanwhile, investors continue to pick up many of the bargains statewide, according to DataQuick. The number of California homes purchased with cash has more than tripled since early 2007, to make up more than 30 percent of the market by January 2011 – the highest level in at least 23 years, DataQuick reported.

To contact Senior Staff Writer Trina Kleist, e-mail or call (530) 477-4230.

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