Director of home-ownership programs for the Virginia Housing Development Authority
The interest in our first-time home-buyer program has increased dramatically. What is happening now is that many first-time buyers who would have previously ended up going to a subprime lender are being steered in our direction. We have 30-year fixed-rate loans that are insured by governmental entities — the nice part about our program is that we have a lot of tools and resources in the event that homeowners get in trouble.
We have a free home-ownership education class that we teach in a classroom setting or that individuals can access online. The whole point of it is to prepare somebody for the home-buying process, so they go in to it making an informed decision. We have well over 2,400 business partners across the state who help facilitate the classroom sessions for us: We literally have the Realtor come in, the mortgage lender, the home inspector, the closing attorney. They all talk about their piece of the process. Individuals are able to ask questions and hopefully have a clearer understanding of the things they need to be looking for when they go into the home-buying process.
What we're really doing now, because we think this makes a big difference generationally, is that we're putting more emphasis on our e-learning tool. From July 1, 2008, through the end of April, we had over 6,200 individuals access our online class. So we know generationally that there is a large segment of the population that is very comfortable learning online. And we wanted to make sure that we were able to capture that market as well.
To every downside in the market, there's an upside. And the upside here is I think people are starting to realize that they can't just go along with what is recommended. They have to arm themselves with the education to know whether or not they're making the right choice. —As told to Chad Anderson
Realtor with RE/MAX Commonwealth
The big factor for the stagnancy, where it just looks like the graph doesn't go upward, spikes down or on a straight line, is that we have so much inventory. We probably at any given time in Richmond have about nine to 12 months' worth of housing inventory. And so you have an absorption rate: That's the time it takes for the houses already standing there to be sold.
There's a lot of inventory out there. A lot of sellers start high, as opposed to starting at a market price; unwarranted appreciation, etc.
The biggest overall factor is buyers have more incentive than they ever have had, but there is fear of job loss and security. Those are some of the things. Once we get our sellers motivated, things'll start turning around.
I think the bottom of this market was late December/early January. There are telling numbers from the Richmond Association of Realtors. The Central Virginia Regional MLS says the first quarter of 2009 was down 18 percent compared to the first quarter of 2008. However, January, February, March show a steady increase: January, 544 home sales in Central Virginia, and February, 576, then 735 in March.
These are the key months, now going into June. People are moving around, making plans for moving school systems. They want to purchase now so they get into a home before school starts.
We are seeing some encouraging signs; more people are out looking. Part of the big problem with sellers is that they're just not realistic about what they can get for their homes in this marketplace. They'll go in the face of the marketplace, even though we show them numbers.
Now there are loans where a lender will match it 5-1, to help with down payment, and a government tax credit. There are income qualifications for all these things. If you qualify, there's never been a better time for buying real estate. —As told to Harry Kollatz Jr.
Independent appraiser in the metro Richmond area
Richmond is not in a protected bubble. Our real-estate market is definitely affected when good businesses have had to close their doors the last few months. We are also affected by the global market. Virginia is not the worst nationally by far, though people are surprised to see that their homes may not have kept the value they had in the past couple of years.
Lots of things are pending in our market right now, across the board — condos, first-time home buyers, custom homes — a surge in most of the markets is pending. Locally, I see things starting to stabilize; in a downturned economy, that is probably one of the better things you could hope for. There is a strong boom in the refinance market. People are trying to take advantage of the adjusted mortgage rate, which is below 5 percent.
I have had a very busy spring, increased over last year. Not because of foreclosures; the boom has been because of the boom in the refinance market, and there are sales that are occurring in our market. —As told to Bethany Emerson