Housing market is improving

The housing market is showing signs nationally it’s coming back to life and it’s stirring a bit in Rappahannock County, too.
“Rappahannock County is definitely a much smaller market. There are not as many properties on the market and they are higher priced,” said Chuck Cornwell, broker at ReMax Regency in Warrenton.

Cornwell is the current president of the Greater Piedmont Association of Realtors, which includes Rappahannock County.
He said there were 122 homes on the market in Rappahannock in September, down a bit from the 126 being offered for sale in September 2009.

Eight contracts were closed on houses in Rappahannock in September, its “best level” since April of this year when nine were placed under contract. Cornwell noted that April was the month that a federal tax credit expired and more deals were being closed prior to the deadline.

“Sales activity is at a higher level. We’re seeing improvement there and foreclosures are going down,” Cornwell said of the current state of the market.

He said that there were fewer foreclosed homes on the market in Rappahannock last month — 12 — compared to 15 in August and 17 in July.

“We are definitely seeing a decrease” in the number of foreclosures on the market generally, he said.

Rappahannock County has a smaller percentage of foreclosures on the market — 10 percent — than Fauquier County, which has 18 percent, and Culpeper County, which has 28 percent, Cornwell said.

Another bright spot is that sales of undeveloped land are also “coming back,” according to the Warrenton realtor.

Speaking of the mood of buyers in general, Cornwell said, “We are still seeing home buyers that are nervous about their decision to buy just due to the national media reports,” he said.

But low mortgage rates and home prices have made homes a lot more affordable.

“We truly have an opportunity in real estate that has never been seen in the past and likely will never be seen again in many people’s lifetime,” Cornwell said.

“Overall, we continue to see market improvement,” he said. “Investors still make up a larger percentage of our business than we have seen in the past, and this activity continues to increase.”

That’s because investors view the real estate market a safer bet than the stock market. Yields for real estate investment, even in the current market, outpace demand deposits or bonds, according to Cornwell.

The National Association of Realtors came out with a report on Monday that existing home sales rose 10 percent in September to a seasonally adjusted rate of 4.53 million over August’s 4.12 million.

Despite the month to month jump, sales of existing dwellings last month nationwide lagged year-ago sales by 19.1 percent, when home buyers were heavily influenced by a federal tax credit.

Last week, two federal agencies said September housing starts were up 0.3 percent, compared to August. Single-family housing starts totaled 452,000 in the month, a 4.4 percent increase over the 433,000 starts in August.

The U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development also reported that building permits were 5.6 percent lower in September nationwide than in August, and 10.9 percent below September 2009 levels.

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association of America, the average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages increased last week to 4.34 percent from 4.21 percent, with points decreasing to 0.81 from 1.02 for 80 percent loan-to-value (LTV) ratio loans.

The average interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages rose to to 3.74 percent from 3.62 percent in the week before, with points dropping to 1 from 1.06 for 80 percent LTV loans.

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About James Ivancic 67 Articles
James Ivancic is a reporter for the Fauquier Times in Warrenton, Va. Contact him at jivancic@fauquier.com.