Chattanooga's housing market showed marked improvement in 2012, reversing years of declines as homebuyers broke out their checkbooks and pulled the trigger on almost $1 billion in new purchases.
The number of homes sold in each of the 20 areas tracked by the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors jumped up for the first time since the mid-decade housing crash, reaching about 5,500 sales.
"Momentum is on our side," said Mark Blazek, president of the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors.
The highest concentration of home sales was in north Hamilton County, where 604 homes sold in 2012, up from 512 the prior year. The rural area, which chalked up more than $108 million in sales, features easy access to Chattanooga, while also allowing for larger lot sizes and a more pastoral feel.
"After five or six challenging years, it's a welcome change of pace," Blazek said.
Closer to downtown, the area north and east of the city remained a popular destination for homebuyers, with 548 homes sold in East Brainerd and another 402 home sales in Ooltewah. Combined, that translated into more than $166 million in sales. Homebuyers say they like being close to the I-75 artery, convenient access to Hamilton Place mall and the proximity to Chattanooga's growing automotive cluster, according to Realtors.
More and more homebuyers are taking a closer look at living in Chattanooga's city limits as well. Downtown saw 335 homes sold, while another 459 homes were sold in the city's trendy northern district. Between those two districts, those sales translate into more than $153 million in sales, as consumers follow the trail of new jobs into the city's core.
The market has yet to match the high points of 6,862 homes sold for $1.18 billion in 2006, but at least it's on its way, Blazek said.
"Remember, it won't necessarily be fast, consistent nor universal, but recovery appears to be here to stay," he said.