OLATHE, Kan. – The real estate market will continue to steadily improve in 2006, at least in non-coastal areas, predicted attendees at a major national real estate technology company’s briefing event Tuesday.

“In Kansas we don’t have quite the huge swings the coasts have,” said Mike Payne of the Salina Board of Realtors in Salina, Kan. “Our market has been steadily increasing over the last 10 to 15 years.”

Payne was attending a one-day technology event held by Fidelity National Real Estate Solutions at the division’s Olathe office on Tuesday. About 80 clients, industry figures and media attended the invitation-only event, where the division discussed its business strategy and shared a sneak preview of new technology releases.

Payne, who is multiple listing service president of the approximately 150-member Realtor board, said, “Depending on interest rates and how badly Hurricane Katrina affects the economy, the real estate market in our area looks promising for 2006.” He said his part of the country had a good summer and the market is still a little stronger than normal.

John Gardner, chief financial officer of RE/MAX Greater Atlanta on Chamblee-Dunwoody Road in Atlanta, also cited interest rates as a pivotal factor.

“We believe interest rates will remain fairly consistent,” Gardner said. He said he expects the selling price of homes in his market to be about 4 percent or 5 percent higher in 2006. He also expects the number of transactions closed by agents in his office to increase between 4 percent and 5 percent.

Gardner said the greater Atlanta market has been good for some time and he is seeing “significant investor activity” with no seasonal decline. Gardner’s Greater Atlanta brokerage has about 1,140 agents.

The Louisville, Ky., real estate market is good, with 3 percent appreciation this year, and “we usually stay steady,” said Andrew Pruitt, a partner in a 50-person real estate brokerage in Louisville called The Realty Marketplace.

“We haven’t experienced the great appreciation other places have, so we don’t expect a fall,” Pruitt said. “We don’t usually fluctuate like the coasts.”

David Chandler, who works for a marketing firm that provides flyers, postcards and the like to real estate agents and lenders via the Internet, said the market is “really high” in Southern California.

But the vice president of sales and marketing for Web US Mail doesn’t think there will be a sharp decline in prices or activity in 2006.

“It will level down next year,” Chandler predicted, “but since (interest) rates are not going up, it will stay high. It’s not moving like last year, but we don’t expect a precipitous fall.”

Most of the participants in the daylong event, paid for by Fidelity, were clients of the company. Pruitt’s firm, for example, has been using Fidelity’s Broker BackOffice Pro for the last year and Agent Office for the last five years.

Broker BackOffice is a brokerage training program that helps with customer relationship management and also does accounting and billing and accounts receivable, Pruitt said.

The Salina Board of Realtors uses Fidelity’s Paragon Paragon MLS system, a Web-based multiple listing service platform for real estate properties. The board has used “some version of Paragon” for years and has been happy with it, Payne said.

Participants in the event got a sneak preview of Paragon 3.6, an upgrade to the software that is being released in conjunction with the National Association of Realtors’ upcoming conference in San Francisco at the end of October.

The new release will include GetMediaNow. This feature allows agents to build brochures and send print orders to Fidelity’s media shop while uploading listings to the MLS, Beverly Faull, general manager of Fidelity MLS Systems and Solutions, said. The new release also has a Can-Spam compliance feature and a real-time mortgage comparison application, among other things.

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to janis@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 140.

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