While there are still homeowners struggling with the foreclosure tidal wave that seemed to swamp many homeowners who purchased in 2009-2011, record low fixed mortgage rates and a modest inventory of homes has helped the market to slowly recover but true rebounding will take more time, according to real estate professionals.
The Oakdale Leader reached out to several top-selling and established real estate agents in the local area to find out what they’re experiencing in the trenches of the local market.
Jerry Jones of Century 21 M&M and Associates and Karen Serpa of PMZ Real Estate offered their expertise and feedback for this Q&A.
The housing market has certainly seen plenty of ups and downs in the last three years; what is the current state of the market? Healthy? Flat? Recovering? Please share your experiences and provide examples of that support your opinion.
Jones: Still recovering, but I believe we are at, or near, bottom. Home prices are still lagging, but if the property is priced right and in good shape we are seeing multiple offer situations again.
Serpa: The housing market in the valley has been a roller coaster for several years now but has been pretty stable the last couple of years and at this time inventory of homes for sale is very low with less than one month of available inventory. What that means is with the current sales volume and assuming no new homes came on the market the existing homes for sale would be pending in less than 30 days, actually in some areas only two weeks. We have not seen this market since 2006 when prices were at an all-time high! If history serves correctly we should see price increases but we all know there are many vacant homes that are bank owned and are yet to be listed for sale.
How different is the real estate market from three years ago? What challenges do you face as Realtors in this changing market?
Jones: We find that the banks are focusing more on selling the home with a short sale process than taking the home back as a foreclosure. With the home prices where they are, there are more buyers in the market than we have homes to sell. The challenge is finding a home for your buyer to purchase. It is a very competitive market with a lot of cash buyers.
Serpa: As realtors we need homes for sale to satisfy our buyer’s needs. When will that come? The major banks are stating that they will start releasing those homes to hit the market in the final quarter of this year. As a preferred Bank of America reo agent that is great news for all concerned....buyers, realtors, investors and lenders. And we should see more stability in most neighborhoods.
What challenges can first-time home buyers expect today with so many programs under fire, such as Fannie Mae, etc.? Can first-time home buyers expect to put down no less than 20 percent?
Jones: There are still programs for available for first time home buyers for as little as 3.5 percent. The underwriting and credit scores may be more scrutinized, but programs are still available. Be sure to check with your local Realtor and Lender who knows the market and lending programs.
Serpa: One of the lenders I work with, Casey Knowles of Scenic Oaks Funding states that there is no better time to purchase a home than now because the major lenders guidelines are looser now than they have ever been with buyers that have good credit. The interest rates are incredible, prices are affordable and we are seeing a resurgence of some great programs. Currently with FHA loans a buyer with good credit and stable job history can borrow with only 3.5 percent down payment and often payments are less than rent would be.
Are there any new programs available out there for first-time buyers?
Jones: None that I am aware of like what the government offered a couple of years ago.
How has the commercial real estate market fared since the recession and if it was adversely affected, has it recovered? I’ve been seeing some housing construction after a long lull. Are people building again?
Jones: The commercial market has been affected as well. There continues to be great buying opportunities for those looking and prepared to close the deal.
Builders are starting build again...the product seems to be a smaller more affordable home than what was offered in the recent past.
Serpa: In some communities like Oakdale we are seeing some new construction and they are selling again. The cost of bare buildable land is down so there should be more of that.
Many people let their homes go into foreclosure but would like to get back into the housing market. How feasible is this? How have banks reacted to the housing crash?
Jones: Depending on when the home owner went through the foreclosure and the circumstances, some banks are offering a loan as soon as two years. It's likely to be tougher underwriting and larger payment.
Serpa: There are many reasons a buyer may or may not be able to purchase after a foreclosure. I would recommend that a buyer get in touch with a good reputable experienced lender to see what they can do to repair their credit if necessary to get back into the housing market.
Has it become increasingly difficult to get loans approved? How has this affected the market?
Jones: It is more difficult to get a loan now...it has eliminated a lot of buyers, but there are still more buyers looking for property than we have properties to sell.
Serpa: The horror stories we hear about people not being approved for loans are typically because they do not have complete loan packages or have not been completely forthcoming about their situation. With a good lender they are approving loans at record pace.
What sort of positive growth have you seen in the real estate market (either residential or commercial)?
Jones: The positive growth that I see is that we have so many buyers that want to take advantage of the low prices in this housing market. It is a great time for first-time home buyers if they have done all of their homework are pre-qualified and are ready to react quickly with a winning offer.
Interest rates are at record low numbers, but people seem hesitant to jump into the housing market for fear of another crash. How do you combat this fear as an agent?
Jones: I have heard some say that, but don't believe in another market crash....the buyers I have been and am working with don't seem to be worried. If you buy your home for the purpose of living in it, enjoying it and plan on holding on to it at these prices you probably won't get hurt.
Serpa: This is a really positive real estate market as it has been many years since housing has been so affordable. I do not feel people are afraid of the market now, I hear from buyers every day that are interested in purchasing a home. The challenge is finding a home with the current inventory of homes and we are seeing multiple offers on most fair priced homes.
Best advice you give to potential home buyers in this market?
Jones: Do your homework, get prepared so you can react quickly with an offer. Contact a local Realtor and Lender who know you and this market to give yourself the best chance of a successful purchase.
Serpa: The best advice I would give buyers is to get in touch with an experienced reputable realtor who can refer them to a great lender to get an approval so they are ready to write an offer when they have found their dream home! An experienced realtor will know how to structure an offer that will be accepted over multiple offers.
To contact Karen Serpa, call 209-605-2010, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact Jerry Jones, call 209-844-1745.