WATERLOO (WKOW) -- The city of Waterloo is using an advertising campaign to trumpet a unique promotion: up to $4,000 in merchandise credit for becoming a homeowner in the Jefferson County community.
City officials say the effort dubbed Find Your Path Here has led to thirty new households in the city of just over three-thousand since October. The top dollar incentive goes to homeowners in new construction; purchasers of existing homes earn $2,000 in this special credit.
Clerk/Treasurer Mo Hansen says money to support the give-away comes from Waterloo's Community Development Fund, and a small assessment on more than two dozen, participating main street businesses.
Waterloo's previously largest employer, Perry Printing closed in 2004, and Hansen and others say the community is still recovering from the job loss and worker exodus.
Waterloo boasts the headquarters of Trek Bicycle, but Hansen says hundreds of Trek workers and workers from some other Waterloo firms are "reverse commuters," living in more populated cities such as Madison and commuting to jobs in this suburb. Hansen says recent television advertising buys are designed to reach them with the home-buying incentive program, as well as "split commuters," where spouses commute to work in different counties in proximity to Waterloo.
The city's printed "money" goes to new home buyers and can be used at Waterloo's participating businesses to buy groceries, veterinary care, bicycles and other goods and services. Waterloo's Trek headquarters has no retail component, but Hansen says home buyers can redeem their Waterloo bucks at Trek's east Madison store.
Deb Neitzel owns Waterloo's hardware store and tells 27 News the promotion is a winner.
"It does help business," Neitzel says. "Even if they come in for a key cut, the little basic things they need, (it) gets them in the store, it's free advertising, it's cheap advertising."
Gabe Haberkorn tells 27 News the prospect of $2,000 in free merchandise to buy an existing, Waterloo home was a factor, as he and his fiancee considered their options in moving from DeForest. "I mean, $2,000 in your pocket, right off the bat, it just makes sense to do it." After buying a Waterloo home, Haberkorn says most of his incentive was spent at Neitzel's hardware store to update the two-bedroom, ranch-style property.
Realtor Neil Mathweg says Find Your Path Here is helping to close home sales, and revitalize what had been a slowly recovering housing market. "Days on the market have lowered, inventory is down," Mathweg tells 27 News.
Mathweg says finalizing deals on new home construction have taken time, with the first two since the incentive program began still in the pipeline. Mathweg says two development companies have agreed to match the $4,000 incentive on new home construction purchases, making sales in their developments worth $8.000 in merchandise credit.
Hansen says more than half of the fund supporting the home purchase give-away program is still available, with the incentive slated to run through mid-2014.
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