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Local Realtors say the Austin, Texas market is showing decreasing prices in homes for the first time in 10 years, yet the desirability of the area has them encouraged that activity on homes will continue.

"The Austin and central Texas real estate markets are in transition." says Realtor Ron Helle ( House Air Pollution Health Smoke Fire Safety Carbon Monoxide Expert Advice ). "Whether you are buying or selling, you need the necessary information to make good decisions."

Helle advises sellers, "Now is not a good time to have your home on the market. If you don't need to sell, I would wait until we see evidence of increased buyer activity before putting a home on the market. If you do need to sell, however, it is not the end of the world. The median sales price and the average sales price have experienced a slight drop. This is a result of people who "fire sale" their homes or property to get out. The result is more one of expectations than reality.

"The real issue is ensuring that your agent get you the proper market exposure needed to ensure a sale," continues Helle. "In the Austin area real estate market there has been a sharp increase in residential listings, so there are more homes for buyers to choose from. It is important that your home show well if you expect to get an offer. Older homes typically need to have some updating done if they want to compete in the existing market. Few buyers want to tackle remodeling after closing! Paint, carpet, tile, appliances and roof replacement are typical areas where improvement is going to be necessary to compete. It is possible to sell without doing those things but it will limit the marketability of your home. In all likelihood, you will only realize a price increase equal to your investment but your chances of a sale are increased dramatically."

Helle advises buyers, "Now is a good time to buy in the Austin market. Because there is a larger inventory, a buyer typically has a greater selection. There are some good opportunities out there! There seems to be some reluctance on the part of many buyers right now to make an offer, fearing that the market may continue to drop. Given the statistics, an increase in interest rates (which is coming) will more than offset any further drop in sales prices. By that I mean that a higher interest rate will cause your payment to be much higher even if the purchase price is lower. It is not going to be like the 80's were in Texas. There are an increased number of foreclosures, but for the most part they were probably overpriced to begin with, and the price that the bank places on them is not going to be significantly below market, if below market at all. My observation is that waiting for a foreclosure isn't necessarily going to get you a significantly "below market" sales price! Most of the foreclosures are HUD homes. These are homes with FHA and VA financing where owners with little equity walk on their lender. In many cases they are trashed, and the normal protection found in a conventional contract isn't there to protect you."

Says Realtor Susan Youngblood , "In Travis County, single family home values have fallen 5 percent on average (excluding new construction). The value of the average home in Travis County, including those newly built, is $201,007. For the first time in more than a decade, houses in Travis County are selling for less."

She adds, "Williamson County's overall value moved up about 7 percent. Although 70 percent of all existing Williamson County properties lost value, most residential properties tended to hold steady or gain value slightly, and new construction continued to be the driving force for the growth in value, according to appraisal officials there.

Advises Youngblood, "Savvy real estate buyers in Central Texas are taking advantage of low interest rates, seller incentives, and new home builder discounts. Austin's Chamber of Commerce has put in place a new campaign and strategy to attract "clean" industry to Central Texas. The Chamber is aggressively pursuing every opportunity to create a "Green Builder" atmosphere regarding Austin's growth. Our quality of life attracts individuals, companies, and industry. Texas spirit and pride are fundamentals which create stimuli, solutions and success. There has been a wake-up call. Texans heard it and are actively pursuing "the best is yet to come!" Central Texas is optimistic and upbeat. We live a good life - food, fun, friends, cycling and stompin' (kicking up our heels). Come visit and see for yourself!"

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