Real Estate Market Stays Strong

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(Host) The economic slow down of the past year and post 9-11 jitters have affected many areas of the economy. But Vermont’s housing market doesn’t seem to be one of them.

As VPR’s Nina Keck reports, real estate agents across the state say home sales remain strong.

(Keck) Rosemary Gingue, president of the Northeast Kingdom Board of Realtors, just wishes she had more to sell. She says home and land sales have been especially strong this year in the northeast. Bob Martins, of the Southwestern Vermont Board of Realtors, says business is also brisk in the Bennington area and he doesn’t expect it to slow down any time soon:

(Martins) “I’m going to say that we’re probably equal to or a little bit ahead of last year, and last year was a good year in this part of the state. And now what’s happening is when something new comes on and it’s priced right, it sells almost immediately. So the inventory is not building up.”

(Keck) A shortage of homes to sell is one of the biggest problems Vermont realtors have right now. Linda Orr has been a real estate agent in Rutland for 18 years. She says that despite the overall economic slow down, home sales in the Rutland area remain strong, helped in part by continued low interest rates.

(Orr) “I think very definitely there are price ranges that are moving very, very quickly. Anything below $125,000 is very much in demand – the first time buyer or perhaps the one who’s moving up for the second time. There is definitely a shortage in that price range.”

(Keck) In Chittenden County, the outlook is a bit more guarded. Brian French is President of the Northwestern Vermont Board of Realtors. He says home sales between January and April were down about 8% from the same period last year. In addition, he says there are 20% more single-family homes on the market in Chittenden County. And French says those homes are staying on the market a bit longer than in past years. While sellers may not like it, the South Burlington real estate agent says there is a bright side.

(French) “We’ve been on such a fast and furious pace that this slow down, I think, for people who have had a difficult time trying to find a property, they may see some prices coming down. And that may open up some doors for people who couldn’t afford some of these prices. So in that respect it may be good for people that are looking to buy.”

(Keck) French says it’s too soon to know what kind of an impact the IBM layoffs will have on the real estate market, but he says he’s not overly concerned. While he admits IBM is a huge player, he says Chittenden County is lucky in that there are many good employers in the region. Considering the nationwide economic slowdown and the ongoing impact from the September terrorist attacks, real estate agents interviewed for this story, were hard pressed to explain why the state’s housing market remained so strong. The ongoing low interest rates are part of the equation they say. But Laurie Mecier, president of the Rutland County Board of Realtors thinks there may be more to it.

(Mecier) “Stocks you have no control over, a home you do to some aspect – between maintenance and where you buy and what you put into it and appearance of the home. It’s always going to have value. And also, you mentioned the 9-11 thing, what more solid base do people have to put their feet on than their home. I mean that’s pure investing in America.”

(Keck) It’s an investment real estate agents hope will continue.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Nina Keck in Rutland.

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