“Around The Property” – By Sarah Cox, The Roanoke Times 12/20/09

Sarah Cox of The Roanoke Times recently did a piece reflecting on the real estate market in 2009 – it looks like it’s going to be a multi-part story, below is copy of the first part.  Images embedded are my own, taken from the Virginia Employment Commission website.

How was 2009 in real estate terms?  Those who wanted to buy were sitting pretty.  Those who needed to sell learned that positioning their homes for a buyer’s market was a new experience compared to previous years.

According to Diana Blair, sales director for RE/Max 8, buyers are now paying 95 to 99 percent of the list price.

“We do not overprice homes.  We list them to sell.  Buyers need to look at homes in their price ranges in our area market,” she advised.

Blacksburg/Christiansburg/Radford unemploymentBlair said homebuyers looking at national trends think that they can make “bargain offers,” but in the New River Valley, that may not always be the case.

“While that trend may be a reality in some distressed markets, it is not a trend in the NRV market,” said Blair.  “The good news for both buyers and sellers is that buying a home here is a safe and great investment since our market does not tend to fluctuate.”

L. Garrett Weddle, a REALTOR with Coldwell Banker Townside, agreed, saying that he looks for an improved market next year.

“At the beginning of the downturn, it was very difficult to get sellers to realize they had to reduce their price expectations.  Now I find it difficult to get buyers to increase their price expectations.  In my mind, that may indicate we have bottomed out and can look for better expectations on both sides this coming year.”

Jeremy Hart, a REALTOR with NRVLiving/Coldwell Banker Townside, described 2009 as a year of “tempered enthusiasm.  While most areas of the country have seen major price declines coupled with drastic increases in short sales and foreclosures, the greater New River Valley residential market continues to be relatively stable.”

He cautioned that because the New River Valley is slightly behind other areas of the state (notably Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads), “it’s not time to say we’re completely out of the woods.”

Hart said he spoke with Brandon Nicely at Alcova Mortgage about this topic, and Nicely’s take was, “Since we didn’t see a lot of Pay Options ARMS (adjustable rate mortgages) during the 2004-07 rush, he doesn’t expect a major swing in refinances other than from those who are current and paying on their existing mortgage.”

Hart reminded readers that the main topic of conversation this past year was the First-Time Homebuyers Credit, which has been extended to April 2010.  “The credit has certainly helped get some people off the chain link fence, but it’s not been without criticism, either, namely from people wondering just where the source of the money to repay these credits will originate,” he pointed out.

His final point is that buyers had their pick of the market in 2009, and currently inventory levels (as of Dec. 1) were at a 10-month level.

“While buyers aren’t getting homes for pennies on the dollar, it does mean that sellers need to be more aware of price than ever before,” he said.

Steve Bodtke, a REALTOR with RE/MAX 1st Realty in Blacksburg, called it Economics 101:  “When you consider low rates,County Unemployment good prices, and (potentially) a tax credit of up to $8,000, there is no reason you should not at least consider making a purchase or a move to a home more fitting to your needs.”

For this reason, he said he thinks 2010 will be a very good year with reduced inventory in the New River Valley market.

I appreciate enthusiasm, and while real estate in the New River Valley isn’t falling through the floor it’s not going gang busters, either.   I will continue to say that my enthusiasm in 2010 will be tempered.  Home buyers and sellers in the New River Valley need to pay attention to unemployment in our area – many areas of the greater NRV are really struggling, despite having unemployment rates lower than the national average.  Unemployment is going to be a huge component of where the New River Valley real estate market heads in the foreseeable future.  Stay tuned to The Roanoke Times to see how Sarah’s forecast looks for 2010.

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