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Brutal Times in a Decent Market

Published on: June 22nd, 2011

There’s no doubt that the American dream has been rocked and rolled in the past few years. The ability to own a home—and feel secure within it—is no longer a fact of this American life, and the reality has turned homeownership and real estate decisions into something emotional, tenuous and kinda scary.

But still, the market is chugging along, like the little engine that couldn’t and then could.

Whether the local real estate market has recovered or not is a hotly debated subject among brokers, developers, lenders and, of course, lawmakers and politicians. In Boulder County, the housing market has fared better than other areas. That’s one thing most people around can agree on. While housing prices have failed to fully improve, market sales have been positive in recent months, and May foreclosure filings decreased 17.7 percent from last year.

“After three straight months of record-breaking sales, everyone seems to be waiting for the other shoe to drop,” said Deanna Dyer of Dyer Realty and president of the Longmont Association of Realtors. “While monthly and yearly volume is up sharply in the Longmont area, median and average prices have not risen. If interest rates continue to cooperate, we can assume lower but decent market activity.”

Sales were buoyed by the now-expired Home Buyer’s Tax Credit. Certain neighborhoods—like the southwest corner of Longmont; much of the mid-price range in Louisville; and the mid-price range ($400,000–$700,000) in Boulder—are still selling well, according to local Realtors. While overall home prices are not soaring, sales are still moving along.

“The market hasn’t recovered yet, but it’s moving in the right direction,” said Janet Thompson, Realtor with Keller Williams in Boulder. “My overall impression is that sellers who want to move are tired of waiting for the market to recover so more homes are being listed for sale.

“I think sellers are realizing that selling and buying in the same market is OK,” she continued. If they wait any longer for prices to increase then their next home will also cost them more.”

Mike Moger, a broker associate at Wright Kingdom Real Estate and president of the Boulder Area Realtor Association, went so far as to call it “a healthy market.” But he also calls it “brutal” on real estate professionals.

Buying a house is no longer so cut and dry. We now live in a world where foreclosures, bank-owned properties and short sales are commonplace and where buyers are not always sellers and sellers are not looking to buy. Misconceptions abound, and the Internet has become the go-to resource for finding a home.

Procedures, policies and rules change daily.

“The creation of the Home Valuation Code of Conduct and the unintended consequences of the implementation of the same,” Dyer said, “combined with struggles faced by the mortgage industry in the face of ever increasing government intervention are not helping consumers who wish to become home buyers.”

Some buyers assume that every home is less expensive, and many have unrealistic expectations.

“Right now, there are homes on the market. You can own one of them,” Moger said. “But there are a lot of buyers who are damaging themselves because they believe there is this amazing deal out there. …The market is not that much different than in the past: If you like that home and if it’s a fair price, then negotiate in good faith and make it happen. Quit throwing yourself on the pavement. My advice is if you make the decision to buy the home, quit goofing around and make it happen.”

Moger said it helps if a buyer begins the process with proof that he or she is pre-approved for a loan for the home. He also suggests that people opt to work with a real estate professional who can help them with all the new regulation changes.

“We run into people who come in and want to sell a home, and they are astonished with what we tell them (about the process of buying a home). The amount of ignorance is unbelievable,” Moger said. “They aren’t out here, and the changes are so substantive. We have to update them—even weekly.”

There used to be one or two issues that might get in the way of completing a sale. Now, it’s a number of things. Moger has to work harder for the same number of transactions.

“You have to spend more time with your clients—especially when buyers are watching the Today Show and seeing (the market) is in the tank. When, in Boulder County, you have difference of opinion about what is going on. You really have to educate,” he said.

In Dyer’s 15 years in the business, she says it has never been more difficult to attain and keep a deal together.

“It is taking twice to three times the work—and the time in most cases—to get the same deal together as say two to three years ago,” she said. “The amount of disclosures and volume of paperwork has never been greater. Hopefully it isn’t too bad for the homebuyer, although they have to hear from their Realtor and mortgage broker more often and provide us with more information than ever before.”

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