Oct 142011


Published by: The News Journal

A more realistic view of the market by both buyers and sellers boosted home sales across the state this summer, even as prices continued to show the impact of foreclosures and other short sales, real estate professionals said Tuesday.

September sales totals were well above last year’s numbers in all three counties, rising 32 percent in New Castle County, 8 percent in Kent and 18 percent in Sussex. At the same time, year-over-year prices continued to slip, falling 13 percent in New Castle, 9 percent in Kent and 16 percent in Sussex.

Those prices are largely the result of foreclosed and other “distressed” properties working their way through the market, Realtors said. Next week, for example, there are 130 sheriff sales scheduled in Sussex. Last year at the same time there were 60, said Sandy Greene, a Realtor with ResortQuest Real Estate in Bethany Beach and president of the Sussex County Association of Realtors.

“It is clearing inventory,” she said of distressed sales. “It’s unfortunate, because it’s people who are living and working here who are losing their homes.” She and other Realtors believe that once distressed sales begin to fade, the market will be much closer to finding stability, and even growth.

The average home sold for $306,900 last month in Sussex, $168,800 in Kent and $205,100 in New Castle County, according to data provided by Trend MLS and the Sussex County Association of Realtors.

In neighborhoods where competition among sellers is more acute, there’s a tendency for prices to come down to a point where buyers will step in, Greene said. In other neighborhoods, there is resistance to recognizing that values have dropped.

“Those neighborhoods aren’t moving,” she said. “Some neighborhoods started early [recognizing new realities], and some neighborhoods have resisted.”

Buyers are still enjoying record-low interest rates, but lenders’ demand for a 20 percent down payment is keeping some people — especially first-time buyers — out of the market, Realtors said. With rates so low for so long, and with the government signaling they will remain there, the bump in sales shows a broader dynamic at work, agents said.

“I don’t think the interest rates are doing it,” said Gina McCollum-Crowder, president of the New Castle County Board of Realtors and a RE/MAX Associates Realtor. “I think they’re more comfortable with the marketplace, and that it’s not all doom and gloom.”

The demand is out there when the conditions are right, she believes.

“If a house is priced right and staged properly, it’s selling within the proper time frame,” she said. “If a house is not priced properly and does not show well, then the house is sitting on the market.”

In the same way, the agents who are doing good business nowadays seem to be making their own luck.

“If you hustle, it’s actually out here,” McCollum-Crowder said. “Business doesn’t come to you, you have to do the proper things to procreate the business.”

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