Central Ohio real estate agents hope the recently approved $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit will boost spring sales after a disappointing January.

Central Ohio real estate agents hope the recently approved $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit will boost spring sales after a disappointing January.

Sales figures released Wednesday by the Columbus Board of Realtors show 266 fewer homes sold last month compared to January 2008.

Columbus Board of Realtors President Gary Parsons said the sales numbers were the result of several factors.

"Homes sold in January were a direct reflection of those that went into contract in November and December and we saw those numbers decrease for a variety of reasons," Parsons said. "The holiday season, economic and credit concerns and low consumer confidence all contributed to January sales figures."

However, Parsons said he is optimistic about the potential effects of the new first-time homebuyer tax credit.

"With the recent passage of an $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit, low interest rates and incredible affordability, I'm hopeful buyers will answer the door when opportunity knocks," Parsons said.

He noted that the winter months are typically the slowest for home sales.

"As we get closer to spring, I think consumer confidence, like the weather, will start to improve," Parsons said.

With more than 1,000 homes going into contract in January, Parsons said he thinks sales will increase.

"Last month the number of homes for sale was down 17.4 percent from January 2008, a sign that inventory levels are continuing to equalize," Parsons said.

He said fewer homes on the market will help balance supply and demand, leading to increased sales prices.