Housing market still struggling

Story by Chris Graham
freepress2@ntelos.net

The latest housing-market news is in. I’ll be an optimist and called it a mixed bag, even as Fred Morgan, a Realtor with 1st Choice-GMAC in Staunton and a member of the Greater Augusta Association of Realtors, admits to being a bit shocked when he first saw the latest sales data.

“The statistics that are out on the sheet are a little bit alarming even to me,” said Morgan, talking about the numbers released today by the Virginia Association of Realtors for the second quarter of 2008.

I use the term mixed bag because there were some slivers of good news mixed in with the bad. First the bad news – home sales for the second quarter of ’08 were down 45 percent from the second quarter of ’07 in the Greater Augusta home market and down 23 percent in the Harrisonburg-Rockingham home market. Now to the good news – sales basically held steady from the first quarter in the Greater Augusta market and were up 40 percent from the first quarter to the second quarter in Harrisonburg-Rockingham.

The same trend is noticeable in the statewide figures. Statewide, sales were down 13 percent in the second quarter of 2008 compared to the second quarter of 2007, though significantly they were up nearly 50 percent from the first quarter of 2008.

Add to the mix some more possible bad news on the horizon in the form of pending sales, which we can assume will be reflected in the home-sales numbers for the third quarter that will be due out this fall. Pending sales statewide are down 20 percent, down 27 percent in Harrisonburg-Rockingham and down 53 percent in Greater Augusta.

Morgan said his firm is doing well in spite of the way the market is playing out right now, but he did an analysis of the top five firms in the Greater Augusta area and found that on average those firms have seen sharp decreases in total volume and total units moved.

“We’re holding on. The inventory is greater, the time frame of sales are longer, and there is some difficulty financing new-home buyers,” Morgan said.


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