Area Realtors see blue skies

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On March 15, the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors got some very glad tidings from John McClain, senior fellow and deputy director of the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University.

After reaching what appears to be the bottom in the fourth quarter of 2006, we expect resale to gradually rise this year and well into 2008, he said, as he presented his spring market forecast for the area including Fairfax and Alexandria.

One month later, we asked area Realtors if his positive predictions were coming true. Based on their own experiences, they seemed to share his optimistic outlook. Heres what they had to say:

Dayna Blumel, Long & Foster, Old Town Alexandria Historic District
…before it was even listed
I have had a good experience over the last few months. If they are priced right, they are moving quickly. I had a listing sell as a result of a brokers open house last week before it was even listed. It was an 1880 rowhouse off of King Street, near the Metro station. Sales  have picked up in the $500,000 and $750,000 range. They are moving quickly because there are fewer in the area. The over $900,000 range is a little slow but still moving. We are expecting a very good market through the early summer, with the usual mid-summer slowdown. Interest rates are still good, at below 6 percent for a 30-year fixed rate, and that is encouraging, too.

Tom Pleimling Realty, Alexandria
…blue skies ahead…
I think there are blue skies ahead, and the next 75 days should be good ones. Things are picking up for the spring. The homes are selling, if they are priced right and show well, and the sellers are getting within 3 percent of the asking price. A lot of people are putting up homes for sale and selling them. Our sweet spot for sales is April, May and June, when we make up to 40 percent of them. The calendar is much more important than the weather. Things slow down after June because people want to settle before school starts. The sweet spot for prices is probably $500,000 to $800,000. We had a seven-year run but the (boom) cycle ended in 05. Now we will have to let the market cool off to a more normal situation. It will heat up again because this is such a terrific area.

David Howell, McEnearney Associates, McLean
…a return to occasional multiple offers.
It is safe to say that the market is improving, but far more slowly than I would have anticipated. I believe it is mostly weather-related, starting with the ice storm in February. In (warm) January, the number of (sales) contracts increased compared to January 2006, but in March they were slightly down. (They decreased by six percent, according to the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors). I am a little disappointed but I think we will have a much better idea over the next ten days, since we will finally have spring weather and will see if it brings out more buyers. We have even seen a return to occasional multiple offers. We had a property in McLean that went for $3,000 over the listing price, although in a hotter market, that might have been $30,000. The buyers are not rushing in to bid above the asking price (as they did during the boom). These three offers were all below the listing price: one bidder dropped out, one came back at the full listing price and the third went slightly above it.

Casey Margenau, RE/MAX Distinctive Real Estate in McLean
…two offers on two houses…
The market is doing well, but you have to price the property right or it will not sell. It is a good market: There is good value for buyers, and while sellers may not get top dollar, they are still making a profit. If things are priced where they were at the start of 2005 they will sell….but not if the sellers are asking for what they would have gotten in the summer of 05 (at the height of the boom). I am selling houses every day…I got two offers each on two houses this weekend: Both were over $1 million and in McLean, so I feel that the market is doing fine. When the bad weather came I didnt do as much. January was a great month because it was warm, but March was a little colder because the weather was, too.

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