Real Estate – Make Your Move

With home sales on the rise, realtors and sellers have a lot to celebrate in the Albemarle area. The total sales in Camden for 2013 were $18,568,421. For the first nine months of 2014, sales were $17,824,733. With the average number of days on the market in Camden dropping from 172 to 160, 2014 was on track to exceed last year’s sales.

We are busy, says Jean Baker, President of the Albemarle Area Association of REALTORS® (AAAR). Sales have not been drastically different but agents are very busy showing houses. In addition, she said, people want to move here. Agents consistently hear potential buyers say the people here are friendly. They like the lifestyle, the “artsy things” going on in the area, and the lower cost of living.

“This year is the first year (since the recession hit) that prices have been moving up,” said Lynn Weeks Bulman of William E. Wood and Associates / Howard Hanna Real Estate Services. “For
example, previously, houses that were selling at $150,000 went into foreclosure and we saw their value drop to considerably less than $100,000. Now, these houses are coming back.  They are showing up in today’s market in the $120,000 range.”

Previously, there were four or five years where the local market experienced many foreclosures. “It was a flood,” Baker said, but now that number is dropping off. “Hopefully, we won’t see what we’ve seen in the past two years. We were the last to get hit and will be the last to recover.”

As the inventory of foreclosures drops, realtors expect prices to go up though they don’t expect them to return to pre-recession prices.

According to figures from the AAAR, house sales in Camden County were slightly higher in
2014 than in 2013, but the number of days that houses spend on the market has not changed
significantly. Pasquotank County sales in 2014 are virtually unchanged from those in 2013, but houses are selling more quickly than previously.

County property valuations are down, Baker said. Part of that drop can be explained by the fact that the last time the valuations were calculated, the market was at its peak.

Pasquotank County’s sales for 2013 added up to $53,790,259, with the average house selling for $124,227. Sales in 2014 were fewer with total sales for the first nine months only $33,515,565. The average sale price in Pasquotank is $120,127.

“Valuations are supposed to be market value,” she said, though many homeowners would disagree. Not surprisingly, higher end homes are moving more slowly in both counties. There are fewer houses on the market priced over $300,000 and those that are listed are staying on the market for longer periods of time.

Weeks said, “We are selling more in the under $200,000 range than before.”

Lower prices make this a buyer’s market. “This is a very good time to buy,” Baker said, “because buyers can build equity quickly. There are a lot of bargains out there.”

Lower prices are attracting investors as well. Local investors are on the lookout for houses that can be rehabbed and rented rather than flipped. Military buyers make up the largest part of the rental market because many of the service members were unable to sell houses at their previous duty stations and can’t afford to buy when they arrive in Elizabeth City. Baker, who works at Long and Foster, said Long and Foster’s rental department has a 13 to 15% market share of rentals and is very busy.

Financing trends in the area have also changed in response to market trends. While conventional, FHA and VA loans combined still make up the majority of mortgages; a surprising number of sales in Pasquotank County are cash sales. Baker sees cash purchases come from investors who have been able to purchase foreclosure units for cash or because prices dropped low enough that buyers were able to pay cash for them.

For sellers, realtors in the area consistently advise having the house “move-in ready” to get top dollar. One local realtor tells
clients to plan ahead several years if they think they will be selling and take care of refurbishment and repairs over time rather than at the time of listing.yellowHouse

If they have owned their home for a while, Baker said, owners may have equity and can walk away with some money. Those who have not owned the house for a long period of time may have to bring additional money to the table to pay off the mortgage.

The AAAR maintains information about local real estate sales and listings on its website, www.ar-nc.com. The site allows prospective homebuyers to search for houses by specific criteria including price range, number of bed and bathrooms, square footage, location, county, and proximity to water views. In addition, buyers can search by agent and offices in the area and can even use the mortgage calculator to estimate their monthly mortgage payment. Once a buyer chooses a realtor, that realtor is able to research the history of the listing and tell the buyer how long it has been on the market.

The website serves as an education and networking contact for local realtors who must be licensed to list and sell. Realtors are required to join state and local associations and take a pledge to a higher standard of ethics to be a part of AAAR’s website.
Full classes in the real estate school are yet another sign of the resurgence in the real estate market.

“More people want to get in on the action,” Baker said. AAAR operates the multiple listing service (MLS) for the area and sends listings to other sites including realtor.com, military.com, Zillow, Yahoo real estate, aolrealestate.com and local.com. This year, real estate firms in North Carolina will also have the opportunity to access the Realtor Property Resource (RPR) system which will give them more accurate information about sales trends. Current figures available through the Multiple Listing Service do not give data on sales by owner and other sales that do not involve realtors.

Article By: Jane Elfring
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