Area real estate market is recovering, but not for everyone

Larry Golub, of Trevose, has had his manufactured home on the market for three years.
Larry Golub, of Trevose, has had his manufactured home on the market for three years. (CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer)
Posted: July 15, 2014

All signs point to the recovery of the region's real estate market after nearly eight years in the tank.

With inventory short, real estate agents report sales within percentage points of asking prices, and multiple bids on properly priced listings in move-in condition.

Not everyone is benefiting, however.

Ask Larry Golub, of Trevose; Gayle Whittle, of Oreland; and Wendy Wirsch, of Warrington.

"We've had our home on the market for over three years now, with no showings for over seven months," said Golub, whose high-end manufactured home in Trevose cost $135,000 when it was new seven years ago.

Price reductions for his "as-new home" - now listed at $92,000 - haven't helped, said Golub, who lives in the Neshaminy School District.

Whittle's house, in the part of Oreland lying in Upper Dublin School District, is a three-bedroom 1940 brick Tudor, first listed at $475,000 and lowered to $450,000 four weeks ago.

"It's a nice house with no deferred maintenance issues and several upgrades," she said, adding that "after a small flurry of showings immediately post-listing, there's been radio silence."

In Warrington, Wirsch's 1949, three-bedroom, 21/2-bath house on 2.93 acres in the Central Bucks District has been listed since April for $355,000. There have been just two offers, both in the low $300,000s.

"The home needs updating," but Wirsch does not have the money, so has instead decluttered, painted, and switched an in-ground fuel tank for an above-ground one.

The sellers seem to be having trouble not with their listing agents, but with the seemingly fickle nature of the market itself, and are looking for second opinions.

Trevose home

Golub says that his house is "too expensive," and that "today's buyers for this type of home are in the $50,000 to $80,000 range." He never intended to sell, so "loaded it with upgrades," pushing the price to $126,000 from $90,000.

He wonders: "If I changed to one of the larger, more prominent outfits, would that bring any additional resources to the table?"

Carol McCann, who sells in Golub's area, has been with Re/Max Millennium, of Somerton, for 23 years. She says larger firms, on average, are selling listings faster by attracting more buyers.

More inventory draws more prospective buyers to websites, she said, adding: "Agents at most of the larger franchises have training in social media and technology, and seem to be more forward-thinking in ways to market homes."

Marketing may be the issue, said Noelle M. Barbone office manager at Weichert Realtors in Media.

"Agents typically won't scroll down the MLS and change their search from single ranch to mobile home as an option," Barbone explained, so it likely misses out on many buyer searches.

She recommends that the agent change the MLS category and add a disclaimer to the comments. Barbone also suggests target-marketing Realtors and renters, and "raise the price a little and offer a seller-assist to help a first-time buyer or renter transition."

Oreland home

Whittle said she thought the list price - $475,000, then $450,000 - too high for her small house, and two prospects thought so as well. Her question is not about price, but about the market generally:

Is it the summer doldrums, or have real estate web sites changed the landscape? Do Realtors still work with couples and families?

Cheryl Miller, of Long & Foster Real Estate in Blue Bell, found the comparable three-bedroom home sales on the MLS were $370,000, so the price likely limits interest.

Real estate is a "people business," said Miller, adding that "lives and futures depend on honest, frank and accurate information," and education about price is a key ingredient.

Moreover, "Trulia and Zillow are not accurate," Miller added. "They are good sources and great resources, but they are not accurate."

Barbone affirms the problems with both search engines, since buyers use them "to eliminate, not necessarily select, properties."

"A home gets the most activity when it comes on new to the market, so pricing it right out of the gate can net a quick sale," Barbone said, adding, however, that it will likely sell when summer is over.

Warrington home

Given Wirsch's limited resources and need to sell, her question is: "Do you see any hope for me?"

Sharon Ermel Spadaccini, of BHHS Fox & Roach in New Hope, and Barbone question the price.

Spadaccini recommends an appraisal and then pricing the property $5,000 below what the property is appraised, and using the appraisal as a tool to market it.

"There is no guarantee," she added. Buyers are selective, and those in this price range spend all they have to get into a property with little for renovations, she added, and a house without central air is a tough sell in the summer.

Since Wirsch "cannot provide an updated home, the only thing she can do is lower the price," Spadaccini said, adding "140 days is a long time in this marketplace because the well-priced homes in great condition do go fast."

Barbone also suggested an appraisal to help Wirsch "come to terms with the realities of the home's value," at the very least down to $349,000, which is "closer to the $320,000 average sale price for this area."

The agents who wrote the two offers Wirsch thought too low, "did their homework," Barbone said, adding that Wirsch "should have negotiated with them to try to get the offers up a bit; however these offers were probably closer to her home's value."

Said Spadaccini: "If they received two offers in the low $300,000s, the marketplace is clearly speaking to them but they have chosen not to listen."

"They should have worked with what was offered," Spadaccini said. "It is a very hard lesson."

215-854-2472 @alheavens

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