The increasing number of homes sold this fall gives area real estate agents hope that 2012 will be a better year for the Tri-City housing market.
A lack of consumer confidence made July and August seem dismal compared to previous years, but that hurdle seemed to be cleared starting in September.
The number of homes under contract to be sold during September, October and November grew in comparison to last year.
In total, 831 homes went under contract during those months this year compared with 796 during the same months in 2010, according to data from the Tri-City Association of Realtors.
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Paul Roy, president of the association, said he is seeing consumer confidence increase.
The number of finalized home sales during those months was about the same as 2010.
In November, sales of 229 homes were completed and contracts were signed for the sale of 237 homes, according to the association.
About 30 percent of the homes sold in the area are newly constructed, which is about average for the Tri-Cities, Roy said.
As of November, 1,269 permits had been issued for new homes in the Tri-Cities, according to the Home Builders Association of Tri-Cities. That is fewer than were issued by the same time in 2010, when the federal tax credit for first-time home buyers was available, but more than in 2008 or 2009.
Some people continue to struggle to sell their homes in other markets, which prevents them from buying a home in the Tri-Cities, Roy said. For example, it took one man about two years to sell a home he owned in Washington, D.C.
For those who are financially stable, now is the time to invest in a home, Roy said. The federal government is keeping interest rates low to make it attractive for people to buy homes. As the market recovers nationwide, those rates are expected to rise.
Foreclosures also are down more than 50 percent, with about 342 properties foreclosed through November compared with 710 at the same time in 2010, Roy said. That is the lowest number of foreclosures in the past eight years.
And commercial sales also seem to be picking up, Roy said, although his group doesn't track commercial sales as it does homes.
Last month, HAPO Community Credit Union bought the "flashcube" building at 7601 W. Clearwater Ave. in Kennewick for $7.3 million. In another transaction, about five acres of undeveloped land at 97 Gage Blvd. in Richland sold for $1 million to DAH Pro-perties LLC, owned by Dawn and Alan Hatch of Phoenix.