Paula Bean, an Orlando Realtor, says that many of the sellers who contact her these days owe more than they paid for their homes or are facing foreclosure.
"Most of the leads I get are all upside down — they bought at the wrong time in the market," Bean said, adding that about 90 percent of all e-mail and phone leads she receives are related to sellers who are facing the prospect of foreclosure or short sales.
And the first question she hears from buyers: "’Is this a good time to buy? Are we at the bottom?’ If I knew the answer I would have more money than Bill Gates and Warren Buffett put together."
While many markets are feeling the weight of a housing downturn, there are some bright spots of activity even in markets with backpedaling prices and plummeting sales.
Investors are active in the market, Bean said. "(They) are buying everything they can get their hands on. You can buy for 40 cents on the dollar." Some of the larger investment groups are buying up entire residential complexes, she noted.
The Florida Association of Realtors reported that Realtor sales of single-family resale homes in Orlando fell 28 percent in March 2008 compared to the same month last year, with the median sales price dropping 11 percent. There were 1,312 sales in March 2008 compared to 1,822 sales in March 2007.
The Orlando condo market has been particularly hit hard by the market downturn — the state Realtor association reported that sales of resale condos in Orlando dropped 60 percent from March 2007 to March 2008, from 259 to 104, and condo prices dropped 20 percent.
Florida is among the leading states in foreclosures, Bean noted, and data company RealtyTrac reported this month that Florida is ranked fourth in the nation for its foreclosure filings rate of one per every 97 households in the first quarter. The state also had the second-highest volume of properties with foreclosure filings in the quarter, at 87,893. California topped the list with 169,831.
Foreclosures are definitely an active market segment in the Indianapolis area, said Pat Haddad, a broker associate who leads a real estate team at Keller Williams Realty, Indianapolis, though the transactions can be delayed by bank procedures.
"Every Realtor I talk to is showing more pre-foreclosures. Banks are taking forever to get back on offers made on these homes. We have been told banks are overwhelmed with the foreclosures and pre-foreclosures and they are understaffed," she said.
"I personally have three offers out there where the buyers and I have been waiting two or three weeks to hear back. One of these offers is a cash offer of nearly $500,000. I have heard of waits up to three months and more on these offers."
Haddad is carrying more listings than usual these days, and "buyers seem to be taking a little longer to pull the trigger and they are expecting sellers to be motivated, if not desperate. Consequently, buyers are offering less and negotiations are taking longer."
Days on the market has crept into the 80s this year after running in the high 70s last year. "In many areas we have seen values drop," though that is not true for all areas. That compares to an average of about 130 days on market in the Orlando area in March, according to an Orlando Regional Realtor Association report.
High-end homes in the Indianapolis area seem to be spending the most time on market, Haddad said, as there is a smaller buyer pool for those homes. "First-time home buyers are still out here buying. They are typically in the $100,000 to $150,000 range."
Buyers are in the mindset that they may get a better deal if they wait to buy, while sellers think they may get a better deal if they wait to put their homes on the market, she said.
In Assonet, Mass., a southern suburb of Boston, broker Mike Motta said the winter months were slow though he has seen sales picking up.
The average days-on-market time has increased about 20 percent in the past year, he said.
In the past three months, sales have been most active in the $150,000 to $300,000 range, he said, with sale prices coming in at about 10 percent below the original list price, on average.
Higher-end properties, from about $450,000 on up, are moving more slowly these days, he said.
"First-time buyers and investors are out in force, driven by the abundance of foreclosed property in the lower price ranges. The number of higher-priced and luxury homes on the market is less, so those sellers seem to be staying put for awhile."
Prices have not been hit hard and there are still properties with multiple offers in the Upper Montclair, N.J., market area, said Christine Lane, who leads The Lane Team for RE/MAX Village Square.
"Prices are still high," she said. "It’s a bargain to buy here in comparison to Manhattan, and that has kept our prices high. We’re still seeing multiple bids on properties."
The average price in the area is about $750,000, she said, and the cheapest homes are in the $300,000-range.
Homes priced from $1.5 million to $2.2 million have been slower to move than in some of the other market segments, Lane said.
Her team is handling about 40 listings, she said, and homes typically don’t stay on the market for more than two months. Condo units are selling well in the area, she said, with some recent projects successfully selling most of the units.
The Corvallis, Ore., market has seen average price increases this year compared to last year, said Mark Fullwiler, a Realtor for Coldwell Banker Valley Brokers, while sales have dropped.
Days on market has increased from about 111 in 2007 to 131 so far this year, Fullwiler said.
Corvallis has an estimated 8.5 months’ supply of for-sale inventory, he said, meaning it would take that long to sell off based on the latest sales pace. There aren’t many foreclosures in Corvallis or the surrounding county, he said, and the unemployment rate in Corvallis is low at 4 percent.
Jesse Clifton, a Realtor for ERA Northern Lights Realty in Fairbanks, Alaska, said foreclosure activity has been low in her market area, too, and most of the pre-foreclosures "were cured through a non-short sale or via the lender adjusting terms."
He said that a local bank "has been very proactive in adjusting terms to keep buyers in their homes, at least according to what I’m seeing when scouring public records."
Even so, the Fairbanks market is still "struggling somewhat," he said.
"We were fortunate in that we didn’t see the run-up in prices due to speculative building and ‘wannabe’ investors buying in hopes of a quick flip," though members of the military service population in the region have tended to rent or move into base housing in the past year rather than buy homes in the community because of the sluggish housing market, he said.
Sales fell about 35.5 percent in the first quarter compared to the same quarter last year, while days on market is up about 153 percent and the average sales price rose about 1.8 percent.
Clifton said that median prices are "relatively steady," and "we’re seeing a dramatic increase in the amount of time it’s taking to move a property and a much slower overall market."
He expects that prices will need to adjust down perhaps 3 percent to 10 percent to propel sales.
"Our upper-end market has taken the biggest hit," she said, and sellers have taken an equity loss ranging from about 15 percent to 25 percent in the past two years, which "isn’t entirely attributable to changes in the financial markets … as much as a change in the demographics for buyers."
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