Close to Home: Military, tech jobs help Huntsville, Ala.

Home sales may be down in Huntsville, Ala., but don't be fooled: It is still one of the healthiest markets in the nation.

"Huntsville is in a world of its own," says Cindy Henson Allen, president of the Huntsville Area Association of Realtors. Its world is bolstered by the high-tech and aerospace industries.

Among the local businesses are Boeing and PPG Aerospace. And it is home to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. The area also will greatly benefit from the military base realignment that will relocate about 4,700 military jobs to the Army's Redstone Arsenal over the next two years.

Still, unemployment has gone up slightly, says Ahmad Ijaz, economic analyst at the University of Alabama's Center for Business and Economic Research. And the recession has caused fear and anxiety. Consumer spending has declined, and home sales fell 22.7% in May in Huntsville, compared with the same month last year. Fewer multiple offers are being seen this year than in 2008.

But homes are still selling, especially those priced at $300,000 and less. Slower-selling high-end homes are maintaining prices. In the past, the housing market has been resilient.

"Huntsville always has been very diverse and transient," Allen says. Even though sales are down, that is not Allen's major concern. "I'm worried that we're not going to have enough home inventory when a lot of people are moving here for the … realignment. With all of the people we're expecting, that's a huge possibility."

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