The Portland-area housing market started to soften in spring 2007 and has bottomed out or is at least close to the bottom, some of the region’s top real estate brokers said Wednesday.
At a housing industry lunch forum, the brokers said they started noticing fewer potential buyers visiting their listings about last April.
The evidence that the bottom is near?
Brokers point to the fact sellers are finally willing to give up a bit on their price to sell faster. They also point out that real estate insiders themselves are now snapping up investment properties.
Through early this year, two key surveys — the Regional Multiple Listing Service and Case-Shiller — show Portland-area home prices were basically flat, compared with early 2007. From 2004 to 2006, by comparison, percentage growth ran in double digits for 22 straight months. [Charles notes that Case-Shiller has shown a decline every month since July of 2007. Looking at Year on Year reveals a “flat market” but that is not the case monthly.]
Sixteen brokers attended the lunch organized by Cornerstone Mortgage Corp. of Lake Oswego. Here’s the exchange over two issues raised in e-mails to The Oregonian from readers.
If you have a listing that’s on the market for a long time, do you re-list it in RMLS to get a new RMLS number?
“Here’s the reality,” said Brian Bellairs of the Meadows Group Inc. in Tigard. “Somebody has a listing that starts with 7,000. The current listing number is 803-something. I’m pulling 50 listings. We have an hour to show property. It’s a pretty fair assumption to say that something with a listing number of 7-something, might be a dog. . . . [Charles notes that it might be a house that is a great oppertunity. The seller has been on the market a minium of four months and may be getting much more eager to sell than someone that listed yesterday. You need to look at the history of older listings. What have they been doing to make the house sell? If it was listed at $X and four months later is still at $X, it might be a dog.]
“I would always change it at a milestone so that right now a home that was listed in 2007 looks fresh.”
Craig M. Reger of The Hasson Co. Realtors said brokers don’t generally change the listing number just to change it. “Hopefully there’s either a change of condition or a change in price.” [Charles agrees more with Craig. An agent can’t unilatterly “renew” an RMLS number. The paper trail requires canceling the first listing in writing with a signature and relisting the property with NEW paperwork and signatures, not a note or an email from the seller saying it is ok.]
Lee Davies of Lee Davies Real Estate in Washington County said “the real cumulative days on market could truly be maybe 20 to 30 percent higher than what we’re all seeing when we look at that aggregate number.”
Why are Realtors afraid to admit the market is softening and will likely decline over the next few months?
“It has,” one broker said.
“It’s all past tense,” another said. [Charles wonders why they aren’t cited.]
“It has declined,” Davies said. “It has softened. But actually the last 60, 90 days have been just like they were last year. It’s very active.” [Charles notes that we are busier too (though I would say more in the last 30 days). The Realtors in the article are mostly “big names” in our market. Maybe we’re seeing a thinning of the Realtor herd? Fewer agents doing more transactions?]
Becky Jackson at Realty Trust Group Inc. in the Pearl District said: “When you’re speaking to a buyer today you may not be able to say perfectly that it has passed. You might still see something for the next few months but you’re not going to know what is the last day of the low market.”
Kathy MacNaughton of Realty Trust Group said: “What you say privately and publicly is different.”
“How so?” I asked.
“I don’t think it does you any good to say the market is tanking. And it’s not. We know that. You’ve heard that today. But I will tell you that probably six months ago I talked to my buyers privately and said, ‘You know what, we have to be very careful. I see signs in this market of settling.’ And I think all of us did the same thing.”