By Sally Voth
Area Realtors like Sandy Brookman of Weichert Realtors in Front Royal are upbeat about the current housing market and say they hope an upward sales trend continues.
"We've definitely seen an increase in just our standard sales, as opposed to the [real-estate owned] properties," said Brookman. "The last couple of years it's been mostly bank-owned properties and the foreclosures that have been selling."
Home prices were up in January of this year versus January 2012 in Warren County, according to statistics from RealEstate Business Intelligence LLC (RBIintel.com), a Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc. company.
Last month, 44 units sold in Warren County, compared to 40 the previous year, and the average sale price went from $138,568 to $187,992 -- a 36-percent increase, according to RBI. The average number of days on the market dropped from 112 to 79, and the average asking price for houses that sold went from $144,582 to $191,191.
In Frederick County, 77 units sold last month compared to 43 the same time last year, a 79 percent jump, according to RBI. Days on the market were up by 13 to 93. The average sale price went from $177,845 to $202,140, and the average list price from $182,902 to $210,743 for sold homes.
Mark Shull of Crum Realty in Winchester was enthusiastic about this upcoming year -- although last year wasn't bad either.
"Honestly, we're off to a wonderful start, he said. "It was pretty good last year. '10 and '11 were god-awful. We're about as busy as we can be right now. I think the short sale, foreclosure market is slowly winding its way out of here. We're getting back to more traditional sales."
Shull said he had a retirement community in Stephens City that can't keep up with buyers, and noted the housing inventory on the market is down.
"I think people just have a more positive outlook," he said. "They're out there looking. Our phone calls are probably up about 100 percent from last year this time."
In Winchester, the average sale price has dropped from January 2012's $182,205, to $144,853, a 20-percent decline, according to RBI. However, the average days on the market have dropped nearly 60 percent from 129 to 55.
The average sale price is also down in Shenandoah County, from January 2012's $164,812 to $155,925 last month, RBI statistics show. The number of units sold grew slightly from 26 to 29, and the average number of days a house sat on the market stayed steady at right around 200.
Cindy Dellinger, a principal broker for United Country Shenandoah Valley Realty, said there are 93 properties under contract in Shenandoah County right now -- good for this time of year, and up 5 percent from the same time last year.
Traditionally, home sales tend to slow from around Thanksgiving to mid-February, according to Dellinger.
"But, the interest rates have been so attractive, and the inventory has not been high, so when a new property comes on the market, people are not waiting to make a decision," she said. "They're going forward in trying to negotiate an offer on a property.
"There has been an ongoing prediction -- market stats show that we may be faced with a housing shortage. I think it's a bad thing for buyers because it's a supply-and-demand issue. It's a great problem for sellers to have because they can demand higher prices."
And, Dellinger said, the difference between the average list price and the average sale price is about 87 percent, an increase of about 5 percent from last year.
Christine Sager, principal broker at Sager Realty in Woodstock, said she has managed to stay busy in her 24 years in the industry.
"It's definitely still a buyer's market," she noted. "Obviously, the foreclosures and the short sales are affecting those sellers that aren't in those financial situations. These banks are willing to take much less than a house would normally sell at. As those sales come about, the appraisers now have to use those foreclosures and short sales as comps..."
But, Sager said she's noticed regular sales are happening more, which might help the market go up.
"I'm seeing an improvement overall, and it's wonderful that the [interest] rates are so low because you obviously can get more for your money," she said.
Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org