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Housing market slump in full effect

Jill and Jim Gallagher placed their Westminster home on the market nearly 10 months ago, and it’s still sitting there today.

In today’s real estate market, however, this is nothing out of the ordinary, as houses are staying on the market much longer than in previous years before the real estate bubble burst and the credit crisis began, said Russ Blackburn, president of the Carroll County Association of Realtors.

Luckily for Jill Gallagher, her family wasn’t in a terrible rush to sell their home and they were able to relocate to their new home elsewhere in the county while waiting for their old one to sell.

According to Blackburn, there’s a high housing inventory right now for buyers, which means there are too many choices for buyers and more competition for sellers.

“At the current time there’s about 1,300 homes on the market in Carroll County,” Blackburn said. “That’s higher than usual.”

Blackburn said more houses are continuing to add to the inventory than are being disposed of. In July, 281 new county listings went on the market, while just 90 properties went under contract to be sold during that same month, he said.

The average number of days a house remains on the market in Carroll County currently is 125, while in 2007 it was 110 and in 2006 it was 65, according to the CCAR.

Home values are also down from recent years in today’s market, and Blackburn blamed numerous variables for that. Factors contributing to the lower property values include the higher housing inventory, inflation, the uncertain economy, sellers competing with foreclosures and sellers taking any “reasonable offer” after an extended amount of time on the market, he said.

Jill Gallagher said she thought her home was listed at a fair price, with the $310,000 asking price below it’s tax assessment.

“We think that we’re asking a fair price, however if it sits another six months we may consider lowering it,” Jill Gallagher said.

Jill Gallagher and her husband are attempting to sell their house themselves without the aid of a real estate agent by listing the house on www.forsalebyowner.com. Prior to listing the house online, Jill Gallagher said they placed a sign in the front yard and used a broker in Virginia to get multiple listings for the house. “It seemed as though houses weren’t moving one way or the other whether you listed it with a real estate agent or not,” Jill Gallagher said. “Financially we can save a few thousands [of dollars] and it just made sense.”

Two offers have been made on Jill Gallagher’s house so far, she said, but in both incidences the buyers couldn’t get the financing they needed so the offers weren’t able to materialize into a deal.

According to Blackburn, banks are being more selective about giving out loans these days.

“You can throw their previous requirements out the window,” he said.

The quality of buyers in today’s real estate market is more important than in the past, but Blackburn maintained that there is money to be had out there for people with good credit and a good credit history. But Blackburn said despite public perception, homes that are in good condition with a competitive sale price are selling.

“I think advice to give to sellers is they have to have their house in excellent condition … uncluttered and because we live in an electronic age … ready to show at all times,” Blackburn said.