Date: Fri 02-Apr-1999

Date: Fri 02-Apr-1999

Publication: Bee

Author: STEVEB

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Home Buyers Scramble In A Brisk Real Estate Market


In the sales business, the trick is to attract the customers. The product is

usually readily available. It's a different story in real estate these days.

The buyers are aplenty. It's the homes that are hard to come by.

Last week, John Klopfenstein of Curtiss & Crandon listed a home in the

$290,000 price range. The following day, 10 agents had already shown the house

and three offers were made.

"I have a guy in Norwalk who is looking to buy something. He can only come up

on the weekends, though. Every time I call him about a house it ends up being

sold by the time he gets here," Mr Klopfenstein said.

Thanks to a healthy economy, low interest rates and the liberal loan policies

of banks, everyone seems to be in the hunt for a home these days. And forget

about trying to buy a home between the $230,000 and $270,000 range. There

simply are none. The fact is, people are reluctant to sell their homes for

fear they may not find one to buy. Also, developers are forced to build larger

homes because of the high cost of land, agents say. It is also more cost

effective to build larger homes, and since there is a demand for luxury homes,

the developers are happy to oblige.

"People can't believe there aren't more homes available," explained Kathy

Weller of Flagpole Realty. Mrs Weller also serves as president of the Newtown

Board of Realtors. "It's definitely a seller's market because the seller knows

his house is going to be sold in a very short period of time."

Sometimes even the same day it gets listed. This usually comes as a shock to

sellers who are not always ready to move forward that quickly.

"They say, `Oh wow.' I say, `You hired me to sell your house and I did,'" Mrs

Weller explained.

However, being able to sell your house quickly also gives sellers a bargaining

chip which allows them to sell their home at or near the asking price. The

buyers can not be as choosy and may be put into an uncomfortable position.

They have to make up their mind in a hurry, otherwise, someone else might

scoop up the house.

"The dilemma is that a person can sell his or her home in a heartbeat, but

then they've got to find a home," Mr Klopfenstein said. "The shortage is

throughout the entire area."

In the real estate business, the prudent consumer usually sells one house

before purchasing another house.

"But the assumption has always been I will sell, then have a reasonable

selection. Now, I sell my house and I can't buy one," Mr Klopfenstein said.

"We've run into a critical situation where people sell a home and have no

place to go."

The shortage of homes often creates a frenzy that is not always in either the

buyers, the sellers, or the agent's best interest.

"If the inventory was more stable, buyers and sellers would be at ease. It can

be uncomfortable for a buyer being forced to jump into something," Mr

Klopfenstein said.

Mrs Weller hopes the market returns to where it was between 1989-95, when

there was an equal supply of inventory and demand.

Despite the low inventory of houses, agents say this is still a very busy

market. If they had more homes to sell, it would be an even busier market,

they say.