Top Realtors Say Market Is Operating in 'Normal' Mode


(Wednesday, October 17, 2007 3:08 PM EDT)

To sum up the local real estate market in a word: Stagnant. Some areas are doing better and some are doing worse, but the region as a whole appears to be in limbo.

That's no secret. But where is the market going? That's what the Sun Gazette has gone to the experts to find out, and here are some of their predictions:

* Ron Cathell, a Realtor with Keller Williams Realty, Arlington, believes the market will remain the way it is - “normal” - until at least the spring.

“The market is actually normal, like it was back in 1998 and '99, before things took off like they did,” he said. “I think it will continue as it is now until the spring. Sellers have to adjust their expectations. Houses have to be priced for 2007 now, not for 2005 prices. When homes are priced right, they will sell.”

Cathell also said any positive news about the market will give it a “boost.”

* Libby Ross of Long & Foster, Arlington, believes buyers are optimistic and said they can get a “good” buy. She said the media has “painted a gloomier picture that what the market really is.”

“The good thing is, we have buyers,” Ross said. “It's just a matter of getting the buyers and sellers together. I see the mood with buyers making offers, and that is good.”

* Nancy Steorts of Weichert, Dolly Madison, believes the current market offers “some great opportunity for increased sales in the next six months.”

“There is a lot of pent-up demand from buyers,” Steorts said. “I am getting a tremendous amount of people at my open houses. They are looking for value, and houses that are in excellent condition. For a house to sell, it is critical that the property is in great shape. Sellers have to be realistic to the changing market.”

* Barbara Johnson of Long & Foster, McLean, said the market hasn't been that bad for the McLean and Arlington areas, and she believes the end of the year sales will be “strong,” especially for houses at the lower end of the market, up to $600,000.

* Bret Brock of Brock Realty said buyers don't have the “urgency” and are “uneasy” right now.

“That's strange to me, because there are some great deals with the interest rates the way they are,” Brock said. “Sellers for the most part are holding their prices for 30 to 60 days before making market adjustments.”

* Kay Abell of Long & Foster, McLean, also believes there are plenty of buyers, for various reasons.

“The same old principles apply,” she said. “Location, schools, communities, transportation issues and, of course, price. For sellers, most would not be selling, probably, at this time if they did not have to do so.”

* Christine Morgan, a Realtor with Long & Foster, McLean/Dolley Madison, said she doesn't expect to see much change in the market.

“I think the market has stabilized,” she said. “I think it's going to remain stable for the next couple months, with no real increases and decreases.”

* John Jorgenson, a Realtor with Long & Foster, McLean, also said he believed “the market will remain flat.” But Jorgenson's perspective comes from a slightly different angle, representing a local home builder.

“I work with Stanley Martin, and we are extremely busy and see a lot of opportunity in the tear-down market,” he said. “We have 20 to 30 people a week who want to build a new home . . . we are busy.”

* John McNamara of Prudential Carruthers also said he feels that “things will continue in this current sluggish period,” but has seen houses sell very quickly in some instances, which he credits to sellers who put effort into making their homes appealing.

“We still see houses selling in two weeks,” he said. “It's crucial to have everything be show-ready and perfect.”

* Heidi Hommel of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage said she believes low interest rates and lower prices might increase home sales.

“Hopefully, those that aren't interested in selling will take their homes off the market, and, hopefully, with low interest rates, that will encourage people to look at homes,” she said. “Prices have come down, and it's a time buyers can buy what they want, at prices they want.”

* Re/Max Distinctive Realtor Jennifer Harper Thornett said she has just recently seen an increase in sales.

“November and December historically tend to be slower, but in the last few days, I've seen a surge in properties selling that have been on the market a long time,” she said. “This is a hopeful sign.”

* Brad Winkelmann of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, who primarily works in Arlington, said he thinks it's possible that some serious buyers may surface during the winter months.

“Specific to the Arlington market, historically, the next three months are on the slower side,” he said. “But it's been my experience recently that serious buyers are coming into the market and getting pretty good value for the money.”

* Nihal Beidas, a Realtor with W.C. & A.N Miller, a Long & Foster company, said she has found buyers to be hesitant to take the plunge and buy, but she doesn't see any reason for the reluctance.

“I'm always very optimistic,” she said. “I'm hoping that the market will start picking up, because all signs indicate that it's the best buyers' market.”

* Emelia Beltran, a broker with Nova Properties, doesn't claim to know what will happen in the next couple of months, because “you can't time the market,” but she said she believes that when people are ready to buy, they'll buy.

“If I had a crystal ball, I would tell you [what's going to happen],” she said. “I always feel that the time to buy is when you're in the position to buy. Would you rather pay your own mortgage, or your landlord's mortgage?”

* Chip Benjamin, an associate broker with Long & Foster, Arlington, says the market is doing well in Arlington, with a 30 percent absorption rate.

“I certainly don't think it's doom and gloom,” he said. “It takes 45 to 90 days to sell a house, and longer for a higher-income house, but that is a normal market,” he said. “Expectations have to be realistic. Purchasers have choice now, which they haven't had in years.”

* Martha Williams of Long & Foster, McLean, says buyers are cautious, but they all are looking for a “deal.”

“Buyers are all taking more time making decisions,” Williams said.

Williams said that until interest rates moderate, that will keep potential buyers out of the market.

* Ratan Kumar of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage is looking toward next spring, but says opportunities remain in the last few months of the year.

“I do think people are getting tired of waiting, and I think if a house presents itself properly and is updated, it really just moves,” he said.

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