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Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors plan Open House Weekend

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

With home sales on the rise and spring in full bloom, more than 200 Chattanooga home sellers are expected to open their houses to prospective buyers this weekend during Chattanooga's biggest open house event of the year.

The Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors is organizing the citywide open house to help boost housing sales as the traditionally busy home-buying season begins.

"With no phone calls or appointment times to make, this event allows everyone to have a fair chance at finding their dream home," said Travis Close, a Signal Mountain Realtor who is president this year of the local real estate association. "Since spring is the most active season for the real estate market, we're inviting everyone out early in the season so they can get settled and start living in their new homes by the end of the summer."

In the first three months of 2015, Realtors sold a total of 1,784 houses, or 11.2 percent more than they did a year ago. The median price of Chattanooga homes sold in the first three months of the year rose 8.7 percent from a year ago to $141,250. But Chattanooga home prices remain priced, on average, one-third less than the U.S. median price of $212,100, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Close said rising sales in Chattanooga are cutting housing inventories for sale and reducing the time on the market for most home sales. But nationwide, more homeowners are putting their properties on the market, increasing available inventory.

Total housing inventory at the end of March climbed 5.3 percent to 2 million existing homes available for sale.

"After a quiet start to the year, sales activity picked up greatly throughout the country in March," said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors. "The combination of low interest rates and the ongoing stability in the job market is improving buyer confidence and finally releasing some of the sizable pent-up demand that accumulated in recent years."

The average number of days homes are on the market in Chattanooga fell in the first quarter to 102 days, down 13.6 percent from the 118-day average sales schedule a year ago, according to figures compiled by the Chattanooga Realtors group.

Mortgage rates have crept above their near record lows reached last year, but borrowing rates are still near historic lows.

Buyers are also being aided by more relaxed borrowing requirements and lower mortgage insurance premiums from the Federal Housing Administration, which cut recently cut the Mortgage Insurance Premiums on most FHA loans.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that the lower mortgage insurance rates could save 2 million homebuyers using FHA loans up to $900 million a year and thereby spur an extra 250,000 home sales over the next three years.

"Because of these new MIPs, we expect to see a huge turnout for this year's Open House Weekend," said Carol Seal, CEO of the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors. "And as an extra incentive, we're giving away a $500 Visa Gift Card to one lucky open house visitor as a way to say 'thank you' for the support you've shown our Association and our valuable members throughout the years."