Good time to buy — and sell

The national news is full of doom and gloom about the housing market. Over and over, we see and hear that lenders aren’t approving mortgages, property values are plummeting and desperate people are foreclosing or selling their homes for peanuts.

Should Redmond residents be concerned?

No, said Mona Spencer, managing broker at John L. Scott Real Estate, 16564 Cleveland Street, Suite H; (425) 861-1575.

“Our market is different. The Pacific Northwest is different from other regions because of low unemployment, large numbers of people migrating here and low interest rates,” she stated. “We’re not experiencing the same problems as in Detroit or Nevada. Real estate will remain one of the best long-term investments you can make.”

Don’t believe it? Spencer said that King County homes purchased in 2003 have seen a 50 percent net gain in value, whereas the same investment in the stock market has shown about 27 percent in returned value. One thing to remember, however, is that successfully investing in real estate is “like a turtle — slow and steady will win the race,” she explained.

Since mid-2000, although experts have said home sales would decline, they were up 4.7 percent here and down 10 percent elsewhere in the nation in 2007, Spencer added.

And in 1990, mortgage rates were at 9.9 percent, compared to the current rate around 6 percent.

“This is a good time for buyers but also for sellers because people will always need shelter,” she continued.

What about foreclosure rates? In Washington, the rate is one in 705 homes; in Idaho, one in 937 and in Oregon, one in 972. Compare that to 1 in 204 for California or one in 139 in Nevada, said Spencer.

So what are people paying for — or pricing houses for — in Redmond these days?

In April 2007, the median Redmond home price was $600,000. In April 2008, it was $554,000.

“Inventory is up and days on market is up some,” said Spencer. Average cumulative days on the market for Redmond homes in the month of April 2008 was 95. The average for last year was 58 days. “A neutral market is considering three to six months,” she noted.

Also, comparing Redmond to the entire Eastside, the average cumulative days on the market (for the Eastside) was 124 in April 2008 and 78 in April 2007.

Points for buyers and sellers to keep in mind is whether or not there’s a sense of urgency to move. Sometimes people price their homes too high and don’t mind that they languish on the market — because they’re not in a hurry to sell.

As for someone who wants or needs to sell quickly, it is critical to be “ready to go from day one — you never get a second chance to make a good impression,” said Spencer. “The home must be staged perfectly outside and inside. The most traffic is when the home is on the market for the first few days. My mission at Redmond John L. Scott is that we focus on clients for life. We are specialists — this is a competitive business.”

Hiring a knowledgeable realtor can help to ensure that your home will be presented in its best light and therefore, will sell quickly. Much of it comes down to common sense, too. Homes that are cluttered, dirty or in need of major repairs simply are not appealing.

What causes people to buy or sell are “life events — a new child or older children leaving home, or a Baby Boomer who doesn’t want stairs anymore. People typically move every five to seven years,” said Spencer.

We asked her what she thought of Mayor John Marchione’s vision for downtown Redmond, including lots of mixed-use buildings with retail on the ground floor and housing above. Will it fly? Or are people stuck on the idea of single-family homes with their own yards?

“If you build it, they will come,” Spencer laughed, borrowing a thought from the movie “Field of Dreams.”

She said it really depends on people’s lifestyles: “Some will have concerns about congestion, yet some want less maintenance, more convenience and shorter commutes, especially with high gas prices. With new construction, lots are much smaller but houses are bigger. Is that a reflection of people wanting less maintenance or a reflection of the cost of property? It could be either.”

Overall, Spencer assured, the Redmond community is a healthy housing market because it “offers many, many choices, it’s clean, well-run and has good amenities.”

And “the market will determine the price for a ready, willing and able buyer. Just remember the three P’s — preparation, promotion and price.”

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