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VOL. 117 | NO. 45 | Wednesday, March 5, 2003

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Realtors looking for buyers in hot housing market

Realtors looking for buyers in hot housing market

By STACEY WIEDOWER

The Daily News

With low mortgage interest rates, a healthy inventory of local listings and continued record-setting national sales figures, residential real estate brokers should be all optimism heading into spring 2003.

But many Realtors are approaching the season with a wait-and-see attitude.

In my personal experience, the last two months have been kind of just average, not strong, said Century 21 affiliate broker Susan Fisher. I think the market is going to come along and pick up but I think that everybodys waiting to see whats going to happen with the country.

Debbie Kintner, principle broker/owner with Camelot Realty Inc., said for her and many of her peers in the industry, the past 12 to 18 months have seen a decline in activity.

I dont only go by my calibration of whats happening in my own company, but I also chat with other brokers with other companies on a regular basis from two boards, said Kintner, who is a member of the Memphis Area Association of Realtors as well as the Jackson, Tenn., association. Weve been reading the statistics, too. When you pick up (the newspaper), it says, Oh, things are rosy and great, and then you look around and everybody you know whos been in real estate for more than five minutes is going, Huh?

Frank Donato, a real estate broker with RE/MAX Elite of Memphis, also said sales have been slow, but he has higher hopes for spring, historically the best time of year for sales.

Locally, I thought January and February were sluggish, Donato said. My experience has been that this year started about 30 days late. Whereas usually right after the first of the year we start picking up a little bit, this year, that didnt happen until the end of February.

But yes, it looks like the momentums picking up to get into a good spring.

Other Realtors paint an equally optimistic outlook, and some say sales have been consistently strong.

Bebe McWaters, principle broker at McWaters & Associates, said sales are booming, backing up National Association of Realtors figures released last week indicating that existing-home sales broke the monthly record once again in January.

We have had the biggest January and February weve had in a long time, McWaters said. Last year was not a bad year at all, but this year is just doubled.

McWaters, whose agents represent three building firms, said existing-home sales are currently stronger for her company than even new-home sales.

We are doing an awful lot of the move-up new home, she said. Just looking at the closing statements, Id say most of the sales have been existing homes where people have moved up.

McWaters and Heritage Homes associate broker Grace Uhlhorn said the High Point Terrace area of East Memphis has seen continued strong sales.

I have a little bit of a market with (existing home) buyers, and theyre all looking in High Point Terrace and East Memphis, Uhlhorn said.

She added she has found that sluggish economic conditions have helped her sales rather than hindered them.

Interest rates are still so good and people arent confident in the stock market, so theyre investing in homes, she said. I know in general the economy is down, but I think people are realizing that housing is a wonderful place to put their money right now.

Donato said he expects buyers who have been hesitating to make a move due to the uncertain national picture to enter the market in coming months, which could bode well for spring.

I think weve got a ton of what Im calling pent-up buyers, he said. Weve got a whole lot of people that have over the last 12 months really wanted to move, but either because of the economy, threat of war, 9-11, they havent done anything yet.

Theyre there, and they just havent come out yet. But, I do see there are buyers.

And, the buyers driving activity in the current market represent a positive factor in and of themselves, Kintner added.

The people out there looking and selling, theres one thing you can bank on for sure theyre serious, she said. And actually, in a really active market, where all the factors are wonderful and interest rates are decent, you have a lot of people who arent that serious buying and arent that serious selling.

Now, interest rates are good and whether we go to war or not, people still have to live and move and work. At least in the market we have now, everyone is dead-on serious.

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 0 56 9,658
MORTGAGES 0 49 10,665
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 0 12 1,301
BUILDING PERMITS 0 548 21,505
BANKRUPTCIES 0 256 6,219
BUSINESS LICENSES 0 64 4,003
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 60 2,952
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 52 2,073