Home sales rise nationwide

Published 10:25 pm Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Home sales rose nationwide in December, but stayed steady in Suffolk for 2011 over 2010.

There’s good and bad news on the housing front, and local real estate agents are holding their breath to see where the market is going to take them next.

“There’s lots of activity,” said Mary Riddick of Prudential Towne Realty. “We are just as busy as we can be.”

But on the other hand, she noted, there still are a lot of foreclosures and short sales going on, banks are reluctant to qualify any but the lowest-risk people seeking mortgages and some people are having a hard time selling their homes.

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“It’s tough out there,” she said. “But we expect it to be a good year.”

In December, existing-home sales rose nationwide from the month before — continuing a three-month trend — and remained higher than December 2010, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Throughout the country, existing-home sales rose 5 percent in December from the month before. In the South, that percentage increase was 2.9 percent.

Home prices in Suffolk continued to fall in 2011, dropping about 5 percent from 2010. The average time on the market was about three to four months.

“There’s so many foreclosures in the system, and short sales in the system, I’m seeing stuff I never thought I’d see,” Billy Chorey Sr. of Chorey and Associates Realty said. “That’s what causes this continual southbound real estate valuation that I don’t think will end until early 2014.”

A large amount of foreclosures in the market drives down prices because banks usually sell at a low price to get rid of foreclosed homes quickly, Chorey said. Because home values are based on sale prices of similar homes nearby, a high number of foreclosures means lower prices in the market.

“All the foreclosures in the system are driving down people that are not in foreclosure situations,” Chorey said. “The normal people that haven’t done anything wrong are being affected by the sales that are taking place.”

Riddick said now is a great time to buy, and she also believes prices will continue to decline for at least a few more months.

“If you get an offer and you’re a seller, you need to really look at it hard,” she said. “If we’re still declining, that’s where we’re going to be six months down the road.”

Riddick said buyers are able to get great deals in this market, as well as excellent prime interest rates in the low 4-percent range.

“It does make it a great time to buy,” she said. “Rates are great. They’re unprecedented.”

Riddick said she expects a lot of business this year.

“Suffolk is growing,” she said. “With the tolls and everything coming, we hope that drives businesses and residents alike to come see what Suffolk has to offer.”