The bolding is ours, as are the comments in parentheses and the color red. Otherwise, the material is from the article, which categorizes the local economy as a "mixed bag" and then subdivides issues into the good, the bad, and the ugly.
(Low home sales in the region were contrasted with low sales in other areas of the Commonwealth; therefore the drop qualifies as "good news" because it's not as bad as NoVa or Norfolk, etc. Hmmm.)
The Charlottesville region’s sales fell by 21.7 percent in the third quarter to its lowest point in seven years, compared with the third quarter of 2007, according to a market report by the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors.
(Sales are at the lowest point in seven years: seven years ago was just about the beginning of the bubble.)
Yet real estate industry professionals see some signs for optimism. Jeff Gaffney, chairman of the new homes division of Real Estate III, said the Charlottesville region’s glut of housing is beginning to be whittled away and the average number of days it takes to sell a home has decreased. The number of homes listed for sale has dropped from 3,530 last month to 3,427 on Thursday. The average number of days on market fell from 128 in October to 113 last week, according to CAAR.
(A drop of 100 properties is seen as "good" news? This is how disastrous the market is right now. And fwiw, we're not confident that the decline in available properties is due to sales. More properties come on the market every day, especially in Albemarle and the other counties, which balance out the "solds." There's been nearly 15 months of inventory (and see update, below) on the market for the past few months. In September and October there were about +/- 145 sales EACH MONTH out of 3,550+ available properties.
Is a reason there's been a decline in numbers that some houses formerly for sale have been rented or made available to rent? And that others have been pulled off the market? Even casual observation and looking at Craigslist can give one this idea.)
“We’ve had a decline of inventory of housing for the last four months straight,” Gaffney said. “It’s still certainly a buyer’s market, but it’s headed toward balance. Maybe we’re turning a corner.”"
(This comment the only kind one would expect from a REALTOR in such a terrible market: "spin." The reality is, we're not "turning a corner" any time soon. Where are the buyers supposed to come from? NGIC isn't panning out to provide lots of househunters, unemployment will continue to rise, wages are freezing at UVa, and the price-to-income ratio in this area remains bubble-high, especially in the City proper.
The only way there will be a "corner" turned in this market is A) If sellers get realistic about what their property can fetch in this market from this point forward (sold comps hold less weight now) and/or B) If suddenly mortgage rates drop below 5%, there are no downpayments, and mortgages are now 40-yr fixed. Hey, stranger things have happened. The reality? More properties will be coming on the market in the Spring and Summer because people who have been "waiting out the market" will realize that "waiting out" isn't an effective business strategy.)
(And BTW, we can't help but notice that reporter Brian McNeill didn't interview, or quote, Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors CEO Dave Phillips, who is usually the spokesmodel for local RE, after this debacle earlier in the Fall. Any connection? (Be sure to read the comments that follow the first link.))
Despite a few somewhat positive signs (???) for the real estate market, the Charlottesville area’s home sales are unquestionably slow.
Yet home prices have not fallen, making homeownership a still out-of-reach dream for many residents. At the end of 2004, the median home sales price in the region was $247,250. So far in November, the median sales price has been $257,883.
(As of the 23rd, it's $259K; these figures change daily at www.caar.com, as do DOM (days on market), depending upon what has been sold.
It's important to note that this figure is for the REGION, which is a five county area, the City, and in some cases The Valley. Median prices and Asking Prices in the City of Charlottesville are higher, sometimes significantly so, sometimes so inflated that one questions the judgement of the Seller or the Seller's Agent. See: MLS #459503, #459498, #459485, 459452, all "new" listings last week, months into a slow market, not to mention in the middle of a national economic crisis and global recession.)
At the same time, the financial industry meltdown has led to banks tightening lending requirements, making a mortgage loan significantly harder to obtain.
(Mortgages are "harder to obtain" because the applicant has to actually be qualified for the loan: stable job, down payment of actual money, good-excellent credit score.)
Along with the real estate slowdown, the pace of new home construction in the region has fallen to a level not seen in at least 16 years. Albemarle County issued only 360 residential building permits during the first nine months of 2008, down from 831 during the same period in 2007.
"The slowdown has led to layoffs by companies in the homebuilding and overall construction industries, including firms such as Church Hill Homes and other prominent builders.""
(Church Hill Homes didn't just have "layoffs." The two principals let major assets go into mass foreclosures, while they saved themselves with jobs at Eagle Construction (btw, don't miss the comments if you click on the link)).
... (A) growing number of Charlottesville-area families have defaulted on their mortgage loans.
Shelley Murphy, director of program services for the Piedmont Housing Alliance, said she has seen an average of 10 people facing home loan default or foreclosure each week.
“We are seeing an increase,” she said. “We used to just have one person handling the default calls. Now we’re all taking those calls. There are four of us. I’m the supervisor and I’m taking those calls too.”"
(Anybody who reads The Hook will have observed that the weekly list of property auctions gets longer every issue.)