As Spring Arrives, Home Sales Showing Signs Of Warmth

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The housing market heated up during the first quarter of the year, Alexandria realtors agree. The most sales occured in March, at the start of the spring selling season. They were fueled largely by first-time buyers, in the mid-price range. Heres what local real estate agents had to say:

My market is doing wonderfully.
Terri Brevig, Prudential-Carruthers
My market is doing wonderfully. I work with a lot of first-time buyers, and they could not find a better time. Interest rates are extremely low, even in the 4 percent range, while the inventory is getting smaller. The $8,000 federal tax credit for first-time buyers this year has encouraged them even further. I see things moving very well for $450,000-and-under [properties] and not just waiting like they did before. The over-$500,000 category is slower, though.
Most of the first-time buyers are choosing townhouses and condos, although there are some older neighborhoods with smaller homes in their price range. I feel good about the market.

weeks rather than months.
Ann Dozier Michael, McEnearney Associates
I think the market is taking off. Buyers have finally realized that this is a great time to buy, because sellers are pricing their homes realistically and putting them into excellent condition. I see open houses that are active and housing selling in weeks rather than months, at close to the full price.
The first-time buyers price range is doing very well, while the move-up market is slower. The first-time range is usually under $700,00, for a townhouse or condo in Old Town or a small single-family home in Del Ray or the rest of Alexandria. I am very encouraged.

I am blessedly busy.
Ann Duff, McEnearney Associates

I am blessedly busy. People are looking [at houses for sale], writing contracts and listing homes. It has been much more active than at the same time last year. January is always a slow time, but sales started to pick up about eight weeks ago.
In Old Town Greens I had a listing that sold after 11 days in the high $700,000s, which was close to the asking price. They had listed it for less than they paid, which is what people are doing now because homes must be carefully priced and sparkling clean.

Short sales seem to be moving more quickly.
Norma Heck, Century 21 Accent
People are out looking. You still have to show them a lot of homes before they make up their minds, but it has picked up for me in both rentals and sales.
This is the time of the year for sales: spring and summer, when people are coming into the area for new jobs. Their price range is between $300,000 and $400,000, mostly for townhouses. Short sales seem to be moving more quickly, but of course the bank has to agree (if it will accept the sales price to settle the mortgage obligation) and that can take five or six months or even a year, which is a real problem.

I have written seven contracts.
– Allison Jensen, Keller Williams
The market is definitely picking up. Since last Friday I have written seven contracts. It seems that everyone has the bee in their bonnet to buy a home, thanks to the low interest rates and the rising consumer confidence plus the availability and quality of the homes. People are doing what they must to sell their houses, by making sure they show nicely and listening to their realtors suggestions about pricing them right.
The seven contracts were all over the board, including Kingstowne, Cameron Station and Belleview, and in the $250,000 to $500,000 range. So we are seeing definite signs that the market is picking up.

My phones have been ringing
– Karen Leonard, Coldwell Banker
My phones have been ringing, contracts are being offered and inventories are low. There has been a faster pulse and more energy. The smart shoppers are finding gorgeous homes at reduced prices and very low interest rates. I have an appointment to show a home right now.
Three listings came in over the weekend, and both had multiple contracts by Tuesday. All were single-family homes in south Alexandria, on the Parkway, and priced between $550,000 and $775,000. Things have been slower in the $800,000 and above range, but under that they are really starting to go. Definitely in the last month, people have been starting to realize that there are beautiful homes being reduced in price and the interest rates could hardly be lower.

March really picked up …
– Sharon MacDonald, Prudential Carruthers
It was a slow January and February but March really picked up and a lot of things went under contract, partly thanks to the great low interest rates. I had a condo in Rosemont that went under contract within a week or two in March at $409,000, which was the asking price.
Kingstowne has had a lot of activity. I had seen a lot of townhouses that had been sitting on the market but went under contract in March in the $500,000 to $600,000 range. A lot of first-time buyers are looking in the low $300,000s and the $8,000 [federal tax] credit has helped them. But some are getting discouraged because so many people are looking in that price range, so prices are going up.
The interest rates have gone down to 4 percent in some cases, and the stock market has gone up a little, which makes people happy.

the floodgates have opened
– Dolly Riegert Woodruff,
Prudential Carruthers
All of a sudden, the floodgates have opened, and that is a very nice thing. You still hear about foreclosures, but the confidence is still high enough in this area to go forward.
January was very slow but February picked up and March went up even further. April has been really busy. I have had a lot of people calling and going out to look.
I was just putting up a sign when an agent and her client came by and asked if they could see it. The client did not even go upstairs before she told the agent to start writing the contract. This was a historic townhouse in Old Town with two bedrooms and 1 baths. It also had a $40,000 kitchen, a beautiful garden and a garage. I sold it right away.
With the nice weather, business has been really picking up. Spring brings out a lot of buyers and sellers. Also, the interest rates are really low. One client has a 4 percent rate on an FHA loan. I think there is more confidence with people feeling that we are close to the bottom and we are coming back. I see a lot more activity now. But when you get up into the higher price range, it is slower.

even in the higher price brackets.
– Chris White, Long&Foster
We have had listings across the board that we have sold, even in the higher price brackets. We listed a house at $985,000 that sold within 10 days at close to the full price. We even sold a new house for $915,000 from the plans only, before it had even been built. That would have been almost impossible in the last year.
Both were in Mount Vernon, which usually lags behind Old Town and Alexandria. Those sales are an indication that the market is recovering, because the recovery usually goes along the parkway, from the city to Mount Vernon.
We have seen even more activity in the lower price ranges. When I ask people why they are moving now, they talk about the lower interest rates and prices, and say that they feel those prices are bottoming out.

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