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Real Estate Guide 2007
2007 overview
The real estate market was bed-ridden last year but 2007 brings new hope the market will get back on its feet.
2007 Overview
Media coverage can dampen real estate market
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This is one reason it pays to investigate on your own. Especially since neighborhoods and price ranges in various areas of a region, state and town can be vastly different.

Also, talk with a couple of pros in your area. "You might find out that the market is better than you were led to believe in the press," says David Ledebuhr, regional vice president for the National Association of Realtors.

The long-range view
Real estate professionals would like to see more of the long-range perspective in real estate media coverage.

The real estate market is cyclical, says Ron Phipps, broker for Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I. "For those of us who've been doing this for a while, this is a normal cycle," he says of the current buyer's market climate. "It's not particularly bad."

He worries that the media "amplifies minor changes," he says. "The media is like the wind: It creates white caps, it creates a lot of excitement -- which can cause people to be overwhelmed."

While talk of a real estate bubble "is great theater," the hard fact is that most people buy a home to have a place to live, Phipps says. The price will differ according to what a buyer can afford, but that basic need is always there.

Real estate professionals have also seen a wide range of interest rates in the past two or three decades. And while nobody likes to see climbing rates and the bigger mortgage payments that result, some agents remember when rates for a typical home were in the teens. And, they also remember that lower home prices added some balance to the equation.

"I sold houses when the rates were 16, 18 percent," says Renish.

"And I bought my first house at 9 percent," she recalls.

What part does the economy play?

From a practical standpoint, many of the areas of the country that are seeing depressed growth or declining prices can link it to one or more of several factors: a shrinking jobs market or faltering local economy (including a higher number of foreclosures); overbuilding; or speculators who bought to make income or quick profit and dumped the properties when interest rates started to rise or prices started to decline.

Mike Fratantoni, senior economist with the Mortgage Bankers Association, agrees that jobs are the No. 1 factor when it comes to the health of the home market. "Absolutely, the job market is most important," Fratantoni says. "And we think that the Fed's successive rate increases have not quite worked their way through the economy yet. We do anticipate that as these work into the economy, we will see some slight increase in unemployment," likely by the middle of 2007.

-- Posted: March 8, 2007
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