Generally Upbeat Mood Prevails in Local Real Estate


(Thursday, April 17, 2008 5:23 PM EDT)

Optimism reigns among top professionals in the local real estate market.

The consensus is one of cautious confidence that the local real estate market will at least hold steady over the springtime, and that buyers - with plenty of inventory to look at and bargains (relatively speaking) to find - will finally begin to return to the market.

All in all, the mood among top real estate producers is generally upbeat, particularly those whose specialty is the inner suburbs.

“I'm busy as a bee and doing great,” said Claudette Schwartz of Weichert, Realtors who suggests the local market is currently “terrific.”

“Listings are selling and we have buyers who are buying,” she said.

“We're super busy,” said Diane Lewis, a partner with Long & Foster's The Lewis Team in McLean. “The market is good for sellers willing to accept today's pricing and get their home in good condition.”

Several Realtors said their business in Arlington and McLean was solid, but that areas farther out have yet to see the market rebound.

“If you go outside the Beltway, the answer would be, we've got a long way to go,” said Dean Yeonas, broker and owner, Yeonas & Shafran Real Estate. “We'll probably feel the hangover from the sub-prime [mortgage] mess for years to come.”

Jake Sullivan of Re/Max in Arlington describes the current status of the local real estate market as one of “two worlds.”

“There is inside the Beltway and outside the Beltway,” he said. “Inside is pretty good. Outside is a whole different story. Things there are rough out there. Inside the Beltway, in the Arlington and McLean areas, the market has always remained pretty good during this whole downtime.”

Rob Ferguson of Re/Max in Arlington said the market outside the Beltway, in counties like Loudoun and Prince William, are areas where prices are still going down.

Brian Madden of Brock Realty believes the market outside the Beltway could take six or eight more months to even out.

“The market inside [the Beltway] is more insulated from the downturn in the market,” he said.

Carol McEwen of Weichert, Realtors in Arlington said the market has picked up with activity in the last month or so.

“Demand has increased more than the inventory,” she said. “We had 75 people, plus four agents, at an open house in a three-hour period.”

Mark Middendorf of Weichert, Realtors in Arlington is very optimistic about the market.

“If the last couple of weeks is indicative of the way the Arlington market is going to go, that is a good sign,” he said. “Open houses have been outstanding. We have had multiple offers. It's a good time to buy. Arlington has once again proven its stability in the market.”

JD Callander of Weichert, Realtors-Old Dominion said she is “extraordinarily optimistic” about the market.

“In January, we sold 25 properties,” she said. “Property in good condition and priced right is selling.”

Bret Brock of Brock Realty said the market has “surprised” him this spring, and is better than he anticipated for homes in certain price ranges.

“For homes under one million, it's better than expected,” he said. “For homes over $1.4 million, it's still pretty ugly.”

John Eric of Long & Foster, Arlington said buyers are returning.

“I'm actually pretty optimistic about things,” Eric said. “I recently got one contract in three days. Money is still cheap, as far as interest rates.”

Kelly Tierney of Re/Max in Arlington expects the positive activity to continue.

“Spring is a time of transition, and buyers and sellers are coming together,” she said.

Jane Jansen of Weichert, Realtors in Arlington says the market right now is all about pricing.

“The opportunities are good right now, especially if houses are priced well,” she said. “We are seeing multiple contracts.”

Tracy Walczak of Keller Williams said she is being contacted by more younger buyers.

“They are very tuned in to the fact it is a good time to buy,” she said. “I had 300 hits in two days recently on Craigslist, for a one-bedroom condo in McLean.”

Kate Ryan, an associate broker with Long & Foster in McLean, predicted the market will continue to adjust for another two years.

“I don't think we'll see the market going down, but it won't go up much either,” Ryan said. “Prices and supply will stabilize. This will be a wonderful opportunity for buyers. I'm looking forward to it.”

Jennifer Thornett, a Realtor with Re/Max Distinctive in McLean, said spring sales have been slow because buyers, lacking pressure or incentive to purchase, are hesitant to make decisions.

While houses in the under-$1 million market are selling well, those above $3 million are not, she said.

Dana Landry, principal broker at Washington Fine Properties, said buyers are benefitting from plenty of inventory selection and the chance - often unavailable a few years ago - to have their prospective properties inspected.

“Buyers are certainly out there, but they're more cautious and take more time to look,” Landry said. “Buyers are intelligent. The frenzy of the market we experienced a few years ago has become more normal, realistic and balanced.”

John McNamara of Prudential Carruthers echoed that theme.

“Things are going slowly and you have to be very judicious in presentation and pricing,” he said. “Presentation has never been more important than today. Homes have to be nearly flawless.

“I think we might return to a more normal market over the next two years, but it's probably going to be slow,” McNamara said. “Slow and steady wins the race.”

If homeowners are financially secure and have sufficient equity built up, now would be a prime time to sell or rent their current properties and buy a better home, Realtors said.

“There are a lot of relocating people who've gone into temporary housing during this mortgage crisis,” Lewis said. “They've been waiting to buy. We haven't seen many investors yet, but builders are looking for land.”

Thornett said she knows buyers who would like to move up to better houses, but are reluctant to purchase, unless their current homes sell.

“I advise them to sell at a reasonable price so they can purchase a house at a reasonable price,” she said.

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