Realtor ads for slower market

$40 million blitz seeks to rebut doomsayers

November 04, 2006|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Sun reporter

So, it turns out, the hot housing market wasn't all that hot, and cooler is much hotter.

That's the point of a more than $40 million advertising blitz launched yesterday by the National Association of Realtors.

Market conditions have never aligned so perfectly as they are right now, the trade group says in full-page newspaper ads running the next two weekends.

"It's a great time to buy or sell a home," proclaim the ads.

Local Realtors at a media event yesterday said it's a lot better to be selling in today's "normal" environment than in the five-year real estate boom when prices climbed 20 percent a year and multiple bids over listing price were offered on the first day.

The hot market boosted Realtors' sales commissions and lured thousands of new agents into the market.

The national campaign, with ads appearing yesterday in The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, is attempting to counter what some real estate professionals decry as gloom-and-doom pronouncements about a burst housing bubble.

Interest rates are close to 40-year lows, the ads say. Inventory is high, yes, but starting to decline.

And prices are stabilizing - the news media would call them declining - before they're likely to rise again.

"We hear the market is turning, the market is worse than it was, the market is bad," said Thomas M. Stevens, president of the National Association of Realtors, in an interview. "We think the emphasis has definitely been pointing out the negative aspects of the market.

"The facts are that interest rates have turned around and come back down a percentage point in the last six months. ... Inventory did build and there's so much choice. We're saying prices will probably still head back up, so wow, what a great time to buy. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Buyers need to move fast, the campaign warns, before the market changes yet again. "In our experience there's still demand - we're selling our houses - but the impression that's out there in the mass media is that the housing market is going off a cliff," said Joseph T. "Jody" Landers III, executive vice president of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors.

"What people are saying today is that buyers have a little bit of a chance to kick the tires, do due diligence, do home inspections and shop for mortgages, instead of feeling like they have to go out and see a house and put in an offer immediately."

Susan Myszkowski, a member of the GBBR's board of directors and an agent for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, said first-time buyers during the market boom often felt forced to buy a house fast, before some other buyer scooped it up.

But lest anyone think that today's slowdown is permanent, several local Realtors said the market is reviving.

Katie E. Grove, the past president of the GBBR, said yesterday that she had listed a house Thursday and immediately got three offers. Buyers are continuing to come into the area from Washington and its high-priced Virginia suburbs, she said.

Brian Carey, an economist with Moody's, said the national sales are expected to hit a bottom annual rate of 6 million homes in the second quarter of 2007, down from a peak pace of 7.2 million in the second quarter of 2005. Sales will start to pick up again in the third quarter of 2007. He expects prices to hit bottom in the third quarter of 2007, with the median home price reaching $213,00, down from a record $227,000 in the fourth quarter of 2005.

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