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Real estate expert says Hagerstown market near bottom

August 05, 2011|By KATE S. ALEXANDER | kate.alexander@herald-mail.com
  • Real estate expert Robert Shemin talks about the real estate market in Hagerstown during an interview Thursday. On Saturday, Shemin is presenting a free, daylong seminar on real estate investing in Hagerstown.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

The Hagerstown area might not be at the housing market bottom, but it is close, a national wealth and real estate expert said this week.

"I can't say you are at the bottom, but I will say you are not at the top, and you are probably close to the bottom," said Robert Shemin, a nationally recognized real estate expert and New York Times best-selling author.

"You are kind of like everyone else, the majority of the country," he said. "What's happened is you had a tremendous drop in the market, a run up and a run down."

Shemin, author of numerous books, including "How Come That Idiot's Rich and I'm Not?", stopped in Hagerstown Thursday to address the Hub City Real Estate Investors Association.

Saturday, he is presenting a free, daylong workshop on real estate investing in Hagerstown as a favor to his friend and local real estate investor, Michael Fitzgerald, he said.

Before his talk Thursday, Shemin took time to discuss the Hagerstown markets, which he said have neither trended up nor down recently, but have remained static and flat.

The city remains caught in the "perfect storm" that has swept the nation: a combination of fear, foreclosures, strict lending standards and little certainty, he said.

"I think about 30 percent of your inventory right now, 30 to 35 percent, is in some form of foreclosure," he said. "Which is about average for the nation."

Contributing to the market challenges are regulations imposed by the city of Hagerstown, one of the few cities to have passed rental inspections and rental-licensing requirements, he said.

"Studies show that when legislation is introduced regulating landlords and rental inspections, a lot of people, right or wrong, get fearful and they leave," he said. "That is contributing to some of the challenges here in Hagerstown."

 Shemin said that to some, his snapshot of the local markets can be a frightening picture. To others, there is little difference between a challenge and an opportunity.

Like any business, real estate is based upon the principles of supply and demand. At some point, the demand again will outstrip the supply, he said.

Shemin said the struggling markets also present opportunities.

"It means there are some great, great deals out there right now," he said. "If you are a buyer it means you are seeing some great, great opportunities you won't see again for 20 or 30 years."

Home prices in the area range from about $19,900 to about $3.7 million, he said.

When properties are appropriately priced, they are selling, he said, noting that about 590 homes sold in the Hagerstown area last quarter.

"It's gotta be priced right," he said.

Homes priced at least 5 percent to 10 percent below top dollar are moving, he said.

And because the Hagerstown area is near Washington D.C., Shemin said, the demand for homes likely will increase again in the Hagerstown area.

For now, mortgage and interest rates remain near record lows and supply exceeds demand, he said.

"No one can predict the markets," he said. "So I tell people, if you are really ready to buy, and it makes sense, now is a great time. But I will say this, whether you are a homeowner or an investor, never buy a house without a cushion (of cash) and never be a speculator."

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