A comparison of housing deals

February 14, 2009|By ARNOLD S. PLATOU

Housing sales...a glint in the gloom

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- A new national report shows for the first time in several months, an increase in housing sales might be on the way.

The pending home sales index, computed by the National Association of Realtors, rose 6.3 percent from November to December.

The index, based on contracts signed by would-be buyers, helps officials forecast sales likely to go through within two to three months.

The index rates the picture nationwide.

To try to judge the situation locally, The Herald-Mail looked at the reports issued monthly by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc. (MRIS) about sales of homes in Washington County.


The report lists what MRIS calls the "number of new pendings," which are deals that haven't gone to closing yet.

Basically, the "new pendings" are those contracts that still need financing approval or perhaps a home inspection, in addition to those where the would-be buyer still needs to sell his current house.

In today's slow market, an offer in which the buyer's house still needs to be sold is more "iffy" and, likely, much further from closing. Therefore, it is the weaker of the pending deals.

The Herald-Mail compared the number of stronger deals pending each month of 2008 with the overall number of deals pending.

A month-by-month list of the monthly percentage of "stronger" pending deals in 2008 ranged from a low of 64.2 percent in November to a high of 79.3 percent in December.

Shown these figures, Joan McLernon, president of the Pen-Mar Regional Association of Realtors, said December's strong finish was good news.

She said it shows more people are being drawn to the market than just those who already own homes.

"What it tells us is that the buyers are finally listening to us," McLernon said. "We've been trying to overcome all the negativity in the media and say, 'This is the time to buy. Interest rates have dropped; prices are unbelievably low.'

"We've been continually trying to get that word out. We're not making this up. We're not exaggerating the market. Don't sit on your hands. Get out there and take advantage of it. Just as the boom wasn't going to last forever, this buying opportunity is not going to last forever."

The figures also indicate strength in January 2008 that quickly fell away to what proved to be not a very good year.

McLernon said she's more hopeful this year than she was at the beginning of last year.

"I am very optimistic for the first half of the year, given the activity from buyers, the interest rates, everything combined," McLernon said. "The showings on my listings are up, the inquiries about specific properties are up, (and) my general buyer inquiries where I just have someone calling without a particular property in mind, all are up."

Housing market month-by-month

The following is a month-by-month list of the percentage of "stronger" pending deals in 2008. The Herald-Mail compiled the list by comparing the number of stronger deals pending each month of 2008 with the overall number of deals pending.

o January - 79.2 percent (80 of 101)

o February - 65.9 percent (60 of 91)

o March - 70.4 percent (69 of 98)

o April - 71.6 percent (91 of 127)

o May - 71.4 percent (75 of 105)

o June - 68 percent (68 of 100)

o July - 71 percent (76 of 107)

o August - 68.9 percent (80 of 116)

o September - 72.4 percent (71 of 98)

o October - 72.2 percent (64 of 88)

o November - 64.2 percent (45 of 70)

o December - 79.3 percent (50 of 63)

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