Column: Home today, gone tomorrow

On November 21st, 2010, Clark County had precisely 3,641 residential homes for sale through the local multiple listing service (MLS).

That number may seem straight forward enough, but an in-depth look reveals otherwise.

1,079 homes in the November 21st pool were considered short sale. This means proceeds from the sale would not be enough to pay off the balance owed to the lien holder(s) – a common scenario in today's market. Next, we must recognize there are two kinds of short sales – those in which the advertised price is approved by the lien holder(s) and those which are not. Of the 1,079 short sales, only 133 had approved list prices.

What about the bank-owned properties we often hear are flooding the market?  In certain areas of the county that may hold true, but county-wide we're talking about less than seven percent of all homes. That leaves us with a little more than 2,300 traditional sellers in the November 21st pool.

A closer look at these traditional sellers reveals 316 proposed homes.  This is a common way for builders to market a type of home which could be built on a lot, but they have not started any phase of construction and in many cases don't even own the lot.

Comparing the numbers

If we look back to 2005, a time which most people describe as the peak of the market in Clark County, there were 2,215 residential homes for sale. At that time, bank-owned or short sale property was virtually unheard of and buyers were entering into bidding wars on homes due to the lack of inventory.

Five years later we could be faced with the same problem.

In much of today's market, buyers are forced to compete against each other for the same property. When sellers price their home based on today's low rates, buyers take notice and snatch them up. So if you are a buyer who has been on the fence, now is the time to enter the market and grab what's left. You don't want to wake up some day and realize you missed the greatest real estate opportunity in history.

Tips for sellers

Buyers determine value by comparison shopping. They look at the price of your home based on its features and benefits, and compare it with similar homes that have recently sold or are currently on the market. If you want to outshine your competition, you must either lower your price or add features and benefits.

Before you go pricing your home, it's important to get a professional opinion. Most financial institutions are required to obtain current appraisals on all properties they intend to sell. This protects their shareholders and assures that the financial institution obtains fair market value for their assets. In addition to obtaining appraisals, they often request a Broker Price Opinion (BPO). This is an in-depth market analysis by a local real estate broker. If you have a home for sale or are planning on selling, consider hiring an appraiser to determine the current market value of your home and always contact a broker.

Tips for Buyers

In today's market, many people don't realize they can own a home. Contacting a local lender to find out if you qualify is typically a free service. A lender can be a great asset, even to those that don't qualify right away.

More than 80 percent of home buyers start their search for a new home online. There are a number of websites that allow you to view the properties currently for sale in Clark County. Getting familiar with inventory will help buyers determine when it's the right time to make a purchase.

If you're considering buying a short sale home, ask your agent if the list price is approved.  If not, expect to wait several months for a response from the lien holder(s). In some cases, lien holders have taken over twelve months to respond. This can be a frustrating process, so be prepared and remember when the price is "not approved," it is just that. Lien holders often respond at a much higher price.

Cano Real Estate is a locally owned and operated company licensed in Washington and Oregon. For more information, visit www.canorealestate.com or call 360.823.3333.

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