The Roanoke Times – Rise in Real Estate Activity

The New River Valley real estate market is shifting – no doubt about that – and buyers and sellers will need to adjust. We still have some challenges, but things are improving. Sarah Cox of The Roanoke Times wrote about it in this past Sunday’s real estate section.


Agents report rise in activity – Sarah Cox, The Roanoke Times, 6/10/12

Several New River Valley REALTORS say consumer confidence is growing

Representatives of the National Association of REALTORS announced at the end of April their belief that the beginning of a recovery in the U.S. housing market is evident. Sales are lowering inventory and might nudge prices to rise higher. The Pending Home Sales Index, which is a future indicator based on contract signings, is 12.8 percent above March 2011 and, as of April 30, was at its highest level since April 2010.

Locally, the same forecast has been voiced by several New River Valley REALTORS, including Desi Sowers, associate broker with RE/Max 8, and Jeremy Hart of Nest Realty and NRVLiving.

Sowers, who was the new River Valley Association of REALTORS’ 2010 REALTOR of the Year, said she has been selling homes “within days of putting them on the market” – and not just homes within reach for most first-time homebuyers. She said she is selling homes ranging from $100,000 to $600,000.

The change is even more marked, she said, at Claytor Lake where sales are primarily of second homes. In the past several years, those homes were “extras that people couldn’t afford,” said Sowers, adding that she thinks consumer confidence is growing.

Sowers said the more expensive homes in Blacksburg have received offers in about a week after being listed.

“Overall, buyers are finally figuring out that this market is not going to last. Interest rates are still good, but rent prices are going up,” Sowers said, noting those looking at homes now are often ones who were renting and waiting until their first homes sold.

Interest rates are still about 4 percent for a 30-year fixed rate loan. There has also been a demand this year coming from those who were renting and waiting for the economy to improve. And during the traditionally high-sales months of the summer, Sowers hopes to see this trend continue.

“I’ve been consistently busy. We are slam packed. It’s fabulous for our market as a whole, and it’s putting money into the economy,” she said.

However, it may not be just consumer confidence or the low interest rates, spurring business. Hart, who attended a business forum recently, said the Corporate Research Center employs about 2,500, and has plans to grow. And then there’s Virginia Tech and Radford, both of which employ professionals looking for homes. Hart said he’s heard complaints about the lack of housing to suit the needs of those buyers.

“I totally agree with that,” he said. “People who want to be in Blacksburg can’t find the quality housing stock without having to pay $300,000 or more. What I’m hearing on online forums is that there is still some struggle [finding those houses]. The average price of a house in Blacksburg is about $250,000, and that’s not going to get you a lot. That’s why people are moving to Christiansburg.”

Hart said the difference in comparable housing from Blacksburg to Christiansburg to Radford is notable. A home in Blacksburg listed for $250,000 might be listed in Christiansburg for $215,000 and in Radford for $180,000, he said.

Hart also have been in 10 situations recently where potential buyers were making one of multiple offers on a house. Those bottlenecks ranged from homes of $100,000 up to $1 million.

“There has been a massive shift in inventory levels, things coming off the market much faster,” he said.

Sowers has advised her clients not to wait if they are considering selling.

“Put your home on the market. There’s a huge flurry of activity, and as far as home prices, the increase is small, but don’t hold out for next year. We are going to see a leveling of prices,” she said.

Hart said the time to list a house is when the owner and the home are ready.

“The homes that are selling are priced realistically,” he explained, adding that it also helps when they are well staged and marketed with high-quality photos. “To those sellers who have gotten discouraged, if you are willing to take an honest look, now may be a good time, but not until you are ready to make that assessment.”

Hart said some of the higher-priced homes he has sold went to those who had cash or were in a position to qualify for a jumbo loan. It is still fairly tough getting a loan, he said.

“I had an agent tell me, ‘I’m preparing clients to expect that they are going to be examined as if they were a criminal.’ This was not meant in a bad way, but they are asked the same questions over and over,” Hart said.

To be prepared for the process, Hart said he asks his buyer to have a lender pre-qualify them for a loan so they’ll know they are looking for homes in the proper price range.

“Once you’re under contract, the lender is going to take a look at everything, so they want to know that we’ve done the prep work,” he said.

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