Air Force families boost area home sales

By Liliana Castillo: Freedom New Mexico

When Jon and Hailey Clark learned the Air Force was relocating them to Cannon Air Force Base, they immediately set out to find a home to rent.

But when the young couple arrived in Clovis and began looking at the rental homes, they had a change of heart.

“Carolyn warned us that we wouldn’t like the rentals,” Hailey said. “And we found that most of the homes to buy were cheaper per month than most rentals.”

Carolyn Spence with Weichert Realtors, who was working with the Clarks, said most of the housing in the couple’s price range was older, which they weren’t used to.

“Where we’re from in San Antonio the housing is newer. There is a better variety of houses to buy here,” Hailey said.

Clovis and Portales Realtors are dealing with what many consider a good problem. Realty agencies in both cities say they have been inundated with calls and e-mails from Air Force families, who are being relocated to Cannon as part of its new mission as a special operations wing.

“It’s been a good bit busier than it was,” Spence said. “We’re making changes to deal with the call volume. We’re always open, we have two new agents coming on at the end of the month and we’re putting some systems into place to make it a little easier for agents to do more work.”

Spence said the business has seen a gradual increase in calls and inquiries and sales from families who will be moving to the area.

In February, the group closed on 10 homes. Thus far in March, the group has already closed on 7.

“Cannon people think they’re going to do rentals, but we’re really getting good at showing them that buying is easier. There’s not usually this much of an advantage to buying,” she said.

Many Cannon families are looking into purchasing a home instead of renting because of a government tax break that is available to them, Spence said.

Coletta Ray with Exit Realty said more than 50 percent of the agency’s calls are from base people. Ray said many base families feel homes are overpriced in Clovis and Portales because there are fewer entertainment options in the area.

“They feel like they’re downsizing from their last job and they feel that the housing market should be less because we have less,” Ray said. “But we have to pay as much as the Realtors in Florida do.”

Despite differences on opinion about the housing market, Ray said the incoming families are a dream to work with.

“We have some top notch people that are coming in,” she said.

Ray said she and the other 13 Realtors who work with Exit have researched the Florida market many of the Air Force families are coming from.

Rebecca Lusk, an associate broker with Remax First Place Realtors, said while agents are getting many calls, it’s just the beginning.

“It looks like we’re going to get a pretty big influx of base people at the end of May and early June,” she said.

Spence said many military families in the past have chosen to rent because they don’t intend to be in the area for long.

“A lot of them will be here for about five years so they have the opportunity to buy,” she said. “It’s really going to be a blessing to have them here with us.”

By the numbers:

60 homes sold in Clovis from Jan. 1 to March 14

253 homes sold in Clovis from July 2008 to December 2008