Real estate agents and brokers are more optimistic about the future of home prices this quarter than in the first quarter of 2009, according to a recent survey by online real estate marketing site HomeGain.

HomeGain conducted the survey March 3-10. More than 1,400 agents and brokers around the country responded.

Real estate agents and brokers are more optimistic about the future of home prices this quarter than in the first quarter of 2009, though slightly less hopeful than in 2009’s last quarter, according to a recent survey by online real estate marketing site HomeGain.

HomeGain conducted the survey from March 3-10, with participation from about 1,400 agents and brokers around the country.

According to the results, 48 percent of respondents expect home prices will stay the same, 29 percent said they will fall, and 23 percent said they will rise in the next six months, compared to last year’s first quarter, when 36 percent said home prices would stay the same, 53 percent said they would fall, and 11 percent said they would rise in the following six months.

The results represent a slight decline over 2009’s fourth quarter survey, in which the same percentage of respondents expected prices to stay the same, 28 percent expected them to fall, and 24 percent expected them to rise in the following six months (see story) .

"In the first quarter survey, many real estate professionals expressed concern over five factors that could potentially impact home prices adversely: rising interest rates, expiration of the homebuyer tax credit, persistent unemployment, continued foreclosures and the release of shadow inventory held by the banks," said Louis Cammarosano, HomeGain’s general manager, in a statement.

Those in the Northeast were the least optimistic, with the smallest percentage of respondents who expected home values to increase (17 percent) and the largest percentage who expected them to decrease (33 percent). For more regional survey results, click here.

The survey report revealed a disconnect between what real estate professionals and clients think clients’ homes are worth. About 76 percent of agents and brokers participating in the survey said their clients’ home values have dropped in the last year, and 63 percent said their homebuyer clients think homes for sale are overpriced.

Also, 77 percent said homeowners think their home is worth more than their agent’s recommended asking price, the report said.

"In order to sell your home in today’s market, the list price has to be right on the mark the first time. Everyone is looking for a deal," commented Debbie Jacobson of Prudential Rubloff Properties in New Buffalo, Mich.

Almost half of respondents (47 percent) said there was less than a 5-10 percent difference in price between a home’s eventual listing price and what the seller thinks the home is worth. Respondents also said that 83 percent of homes sell for less than the asking price.

"There is a fine line between what buyers want to pay and what sellers want to accept. It is the art of erasing that line that makes a good Realtor," said Valarie Kubacki of Century 21 Pace Estates in Valparaiso, Ind.

For 55 percent of respondents, the average home price in their area was between $151,000 and $300,000. For 18 percent, the average was between $301,000 and $500,000. Another 17 percent said the average was less than $150,000. The remaining 10 percent said the average home price was above $500,000.

For 37 percent of respondents, less than 10 percent of the homes for sale in their area were foreclosure properties. For 27 percent, foreclosures made up between 10-20 percent of homes for sale, while another 20 percent said foreclosures made up between 21-30 percent of the market. Another 10 percent said foreclosures made up between 31-50 percent of the market; six percent said they made up more than half the market.

"It will be hard to realize gains in property values until the foreclosure market is stabilized and becomes a non-factor," commented Chip Issette at Century 21 White House Realty in Stanwood, Mich.

First-time buyers made up less than one-fifth of clients for 52 percent of respondents. For 19 percent, however, first-timers made up more than 50 percent of clients.

"The tax credit has helped in the last few months, but with average homeowners competing against short sales and foreclosures, market time is long and sellers are coming down on their home prices just to get the home sold," said Mary Opfer of RE/MAX Unlimited NW in Crystal Lake, Ill.

"The tax credit has had minimal effect on sales. Unemployment (and) consumer confidence are off the charts. Lenders are ridiculous," said Rick Sandberg of Ryan Hill Realty in Naperville, Ill.

The survey’s last questions asked agents and brokers how they think Barack Obama is performing as president. Forty percent said they strongly disapprove of his performance, while 18 percent somewhat disapprove.

"The president is killing the economy. The spending should be stopped. We should try to help the corporations, so it stops the unemployment, instead of taxing them more because all that does is lay off more employees in order to reserve corporation profits," said Terry Pollard of Ruskin, Fla.

A quarter of respondents somewhat approved of his performance, while 17 percent strongly approved.

"The first-time homebuyer’s incentive is a great success. If it’s extended, there would be no sense of urgency. Barack Obama is a brilliant president. He should just follow his gut and stop worrying about being bipartisan," said Janice Vollmer of RE/MAX Signature in Southampton, Pa.

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