An independent general contractor and real-estate investor "The problem is that there is a lack of financing. The first-time buyers are able to qualify for FHA financing and for the tax credit, so the number of first-time buyers has increased. But it's the middle-of-the-road buyers that may not be able to put down 20 percent on a home. I have not noticed anyone downsizing, but I think that people are having difficulty with property they cannot sell. "Right now, the market depends on the fact that it's too difficult to get financing; the guidelines are too strict. There is a lot less equity in the real-estate market. Once the pendulum moves back to the middle, people will start buying again."
Real-estate attorney with Saunders, Cary and Patterson "For me, business has certainly slowed down. Some of the lawyers in this firm have not done a closing in a year. Everyone is hunkering down and waiting for this to pass. Every lawyer I talk to has the same situation going on. "Banks are not lending money like they should; their attitude has done more to create a downturn than any industry in this country. Certainly you need to be more cautious than usual, but banks are not making loans to people who deserve the loans. "We'll know the market upturn is coming when people are building homes again. I live in a fairly new community, and I haven't seen a new home start under construction in a year."
Maria-Jose A. Clark
Loan officer with Prosperity Mortgages "More purchase transactions are hitting my desk. If you'd told me six months ago that you could get a 30-year mortgage at 4.8 percent — I'm making some assumptions on credit and so forth — ¨I wouldn't have believed you. Also, that tax credit up to $8,000 for first-time buyers who've not owned houses in the past three years is helping. People who've been sitting on the fence, the low rate and the tax credit are allowing them to buy their first home. "Home buyers are making those purchases, which will bubble up, which means a seller buying another house to complete that transaction."
President of the Richmond Association of Realtors and associate broker with Hometown Realty "Sellers need to properly evaluate their house. It needs to be in good condition because there's a lot of inventory for buyers to choose from. "In terms of price, take your Realtor's suggestions. Everyone thinks they should set the price higher than what they want to get, and then they can negotiate down, but I don't recommend that strategy. Price the house at the price you want. Take all good offers under consideration. "I don't have a crystal ball here. There's no way I can tell what the market's going to be like in 2010 or 2011. If you're waiting to see if you can make an extra $5,000 next year, you're taking a shot just like in the stock market. Sellers should evaluate their situation based on family need. "I hope it's turning around. But to be honest, when you get down to it, people have to have jobs to buy a home. If we have people employed around here, we'll have people buying and selling houses."
Broker/President, Small & Associates Real Estate Inc.
"I think our market bottomed out late last year. January and February were down compared to last year, but March was way up. The market is very seasonal — you know, back when all this happened, the first news was, ‘The market is down in August!' The market is always down in August.
"Now more properties are going under contract, more closing, inventory is dropping. I haven't personally seen a marked increase of people buying just because of the tax credit.
"People are pre-buying houses. Buy it now at $550,000 because you know it's going to be seven in two or three years. You rent it out and move into it in two or three years."
Realtor with RE/MAX Commonwealth and real-estate blogger at melissasavenko.typepad.com
"I've heard about when all you had to do was be breathing, stick a sign in the lawn, people came running and you could earn $70,000 in commission. I had about six months of glory days, and then the market crashed.
"I, to a certain extent, blame the media, with so much negative material printed and focused on the national overview, but real estate is a local business, and there are pockets of success. "People are saying, ‘I'd love to buy now, but I'm going to sit back and wait to see what happens.' "A lot of buyers are hoping for a steal, not a deal. I want to shake them. This is not a Labor Day sale at Macy's! This is a home, an investment, a serious consideration."
Realtor with ERA Wood Hogg & Associates in Mechanicsville "Honestly, I'm having way more first-time home buyers because a lot of folks who are still in their home are a little gun-shy. We've not seen job losses like this in Richmond since the 1970s. People are looking around: ‘Am I next?' "But there is a lot of online activity, people are searching, people inquiring about listings online. A lot of that is going on in the background. "I conduct seminars for Housing Opportunities Made Equal. A lot of folks, the majority of the first-time home buyers, have an idea about those programs — but they also have no idea about those programs. They don't know where to go. I do. "It's a really hot time for investors. It's not as easy to get the money, but when you do, this is a great time."
Ann Battle Macheras
Head of the regional research group at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond "If you go by the house-price index from the Federal Housing Finance Agency, houses have fallen in price more in the U.S. than they have in the Richmond metropolitan area. If we compare the end of 2008 to the end of 2007, prices went down 2 percent in Richmond, and in the U.S. they went down 4 1/2 percent. So on housing prices, it seems like we're in better shape. I think you can certainly make the case that our prices didn't rise as high perhaps as they did in other parts of the country, so we're not seeing as much of a falloff. That's good."
Chief economist at Chmura Economics & Analytics "Sales are off significantly over the past couple of years. With the recession and unemployment rate rising, a lot of local people are putting off purchasing a home until they feel more secure about their employment. As indicators of market recovery, we will see fewer home-sale signs and more home-sold signs. That will probably start to happen toward the end of this year or the start of next year, when the economy starts to grow again."