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Sunday, October 21, 2007

BUYERS WIN AS MARKET TUMBLES!!!!


Buyers win as market stumbles


October 19, 2007


Chris Sicks - Last month was the worst month to sell a home in more than 10 years. Only 4,423 existing homes were sold in the Washington metropolitan area, less than half of what we saw in September 2005.

As always, various jurisdictions, price ranges and housing types fared better than others.

"The District is pretty much flat compared to last year, but more expensive single-family homes are moving quickly — with prices up and sellers receiving multiple offers," says Holly Worthington, managing broker at Long & Foster's Chevy Chase and Woodley Park offices.

"An $800,000 house in Chevy Chase is not going to sit around. They just seem to continue to move. Inventory is actually down from where it's been. But in some of the less-expensive parts of the city, row houses and detached homes are not moving as well, generally speaking."

If the District is doing fairly well in a down market, what can we make of Prince George's County, where sales are less than half of what they were just one year ago?

"In part, Prince George's is a reflection of subprime mortgage market folding," Ms. Worthington says. "Many first-time buyers relied on those kinds of loans, and that's the segment that has been hardest hit. And some buyers with marginal credit have been cut out of the market because there now are fewer loan options available to them."

Some housing types are selling better than others. In most of the region in September, condominiums were a little easier to sell than attached or detached homes.

"Condos in the District are perking along," says Ms. Worthington. "It's certainly slower than it had been, with condo prices down 5 percent in some cases and 10 percent in others."

"But well-priced, well-staged condos will sell," she says. "A year ago, a condo didn't need to be staged to sell. But now, buyers are reluctant because of the negative media about the market. They are very careful, and therefore a property has to be very special for them to make a move. One reason they are careful is because in the condo market, people really evaluate the rent-versus-buy decision."

Despite how gloomy things are for home sellers these days, buyers have cause to rejoice.

"The time to buy is when no one else is," Ms. Worthington says. "Most people are more afraid of a loss in value than they are willing to take a risk to make a gain. That thinking affects people, so they bail out. But the reality is that people benefit more from moving up in a down market. A depreciating market is the time to move up, rather than an appreciating market."

Contact Chris Sicks by e-mail (csicks@gmail.com).

The statistics in this story reflect a metropolitan area that includes the Maryland counties of Montgomery, Prince George's, Anne Arundel, Howard, Charles and Frederick; the Virginia counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, Spotsylvania and Stafford; the city of Alexandria; and the District.

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