Things are looking up in the Kent County real estate market.
One of the constant refrains by economists evaluating the aftermath of the Great Recession has been how devastating the collapse of the real estate market has been given its effect on several markets.
However, Kent County realtors reported positive figures for the third quarter and they were hopeful things would continue to get better.
"The market is doing very well in Kent County," ERA Harrington Realty Realtor/Manager Doug Doyle said. "Sales are up. Pending sales are up. Inventory is down. Prices have stabilized. Activity is strong. Interest rates are low. Appraisals are showing strong values. Investors are buying."
Doyle is a member of the Kent County Association of Realtors Board of Directors and the 2010 Kent County Realtor Of The Year. He said this was most likely the best time to buy real estate in 40 to 50 years.
"My personal opinion is that we have turned the corner and my experience tells me that we are going to see prices going up in 2013 and not far in the future," he said. "We will see a shortage of housing. There is clearly a pent up demand that we are starting to see in our area."
Keller Williams Realtor JT Takacs, Realtor of the Year for Kent County in 2011, works in both new home sales and re-sales. He said it was exciting to see the increase in activity.
"In the last two months, I'm seeing more people coming into my open houses who are not sure if they can buy, but, they want see if they can," Takacs said. "I think that's a nice pulse indicator that might be showing people are feeling more confident about the low rates, home prices and are willing to at least explore the possibility of buying.
"We weren't seeing that before," he added. "We're also seeing a nice up tick in the number of inquiry phone calls coming into the office as well as the number of Internet inquiries about homes."
Kent County Association of Realtors President Carol Burns, of Keller Williams Realty Central, said one builder had recently sold 35 home in the Smyrna area, which had been a tough market. That was a good indicator because Smyrna got hit harder than most areas because it had the biggest growth before the real estate bubble burst, she said.
Overall, Burns has been impressed by the 11 percent rise in overall sales and the 18 percent reduction in inventory – the number of homes available, she said. Burns reasoned that the positive market reflected the stabilization in the jobs market.
"I think people are starting to get confident in their jobs," she said. "It's not like people are being laid off left and right. Plus, the mortgage companies are starting to loosen up and come up with programs for those who couldn't buy when the market was tight."
She acknowledged that foreclosures and short sales – sales done when the owner owes more on the house that it was worth – were still a factor in the local market.
Foreclosures often took a long time because banks were not interested in being in the real estate market, she said. But Burns looked at foreclosures in a positive light in terms of when those homes would finally hit the market.
"I think we have not seen the end of the shadow market, which means there's going to be more deals out there for buyers," she said.
As for short sales, banks have improved the way they work with Realtors, Burns said.
Burns added that prices overall would increase as inventory decreased — in line with the laws of supply and demand, Burns said.
Before that came to fruition, Burns urged people to keep things in perspective when selling their homes.
"You might be getting less for your house than years ago, but the house you're purchasing is going to be less as well," said Burns, who was the 2005 Kent County Realtor of the Year. "So, you're going to end up with the same amount of money in your pocket."