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It’s ‘not all doom and gloom’ in Kingston real estate

Agents and lenders: Now’s a great time for first-time home buyers

KINGSTON — Every Tuesday morning North End real estate agents gather in Kingston’s Luna Bella restaurant, discussing housing trends before touring the latest homes added to the market.

With nationwide media showcasing the down-trodden economy, mounting foreclosures forcing lower housing prices and brokeback banks, it’s easy to see the how local real estate agents and loan lenders would be feeling glum. Wrong.

For Kingston’s real estate and loan agents, Tuesday morning was a jovial get-together filled with exclamations over the lowering interest rates — averaging 5.5 percent as of 11 that morning.

“It’s an excellent time for buyers right now,” said Kelly Muldrow, broker for Kingston Windemere. “They are holding all the cards, they are holding the negotiating power because there’s no competition.”

Packed into a white mini van, three Windemere real estate agents and Muldrow drove from Kingston to Hansville perusing occupant ready homes.

“We’re frustrated by the negative media surrounding the housing market,” said Kim Poole, sales associate for Windemere. “It’s causing panic and there’s no need for panic.”

Poole said compared to other parts of the county the North End’s foundation remains solid.

“There are a lot fewer foreclosures in North Kitsap. They are predominantly in South Kitsap or Port Orchard,” Poole said.

According to www.foreclosurelistingsnationwide.com, which lists preforeclosed, foreclosed and bankrupt listings, Kingston had 29, Hansville had six, Suquamish had seven and Poulsbo had 70 listings. Combined, the North End numbers total about 13 percent of the overall 837 listings in Kitsap. Port Orchard with 258 and Bremerton with 306 led the foreclosure listings as of 1 p.m. Thursday.

Due to the lack of foreclosed houses, most of the homes selling in the North End are in prime selling condition.

“There are some true cream puffs right now,” Poole said. “The key is there’s money out there. Lenders have money to loan and there are some fabulous home buys.”

Larry Elfendahl, vice president of Washington Federal Savings at the Poulsbo branch said it’s difficult not to pay attention to national financial institutions like Washington Mutual and Wachovia flushing down the credit crisis tubes.

“Our local banks do have money to lend from Kitsap Credit Union to American Marine Bank, we all have money to lend,” he said. “As long as people have cash for down payment, good credit, stable employment, we have money to assist you buy that home.”

Elfendahl said the current interest rates — about 5 percent — are lower than they have been in years.

“It’s not all doom and gloom in real estate right now,” said Alma Hammon, an associate broker for Windemere in Kingston. Hammon said when she bought her Kingston home 30 years ago she thought rates were low at 9 percent.

“Financing should not stop someone from investing at this time in real estate,” Elfendahl said. “Values of real estate have always rebounded and gone upward. We’ve been through this before in the Northwest and real estate continues to be the one investment in the long term that will have growth and upped value in the market.”

As the holiday season nears, real estate agents said they predict those still trying to sell their homes are more motivated to sell. Prices are predicted to be competitively low.

“I think everyone in the (real estate) business wishes they had a lot of cash to buy some of these homes,” Muldrow said. “For the people who like to buy low and sell high, it’s low right now. It all boils down to simple supply and demand. A few years ago, sellers had all the power.”

Agent Karrie Henricksen said for the prices homes are selling for, those who are currently renting could be paying off their mortgages for comparable monthly amounts.

“Your money is just going out the window paying for rent and it’s comparable dollars,” she said. “This is the absolute best time to buy in the last 10 years. You can take your pick. There were people two years ago that never had a prayer to own their own home but with what houses will sell for now they can and are.”

Although the time might be right to upgrade from renting, there are people who aren’t making out on housing purchases.

“Those who bought within the last three years and are trying to sell today probably are in trouble,” said Windemere agent David Muller.

The outlook of local agents hasn’t always been sunshine and rainbows.

During the home tour, Associate Broker Doug Hallock was showing a home with waterfront access in Driftwood Keys that has been on the market for 405 days. Although it’s price is reduced to $279 thousand, he isn’t having any luck selling.

“A lot of the problem is people aren’t looking out in this area because of gas and travel time,” he said. “It’s hard to get buyers to even come out and look.”

Muldrow said he watches trends nationwide to forecast when sold stickers will decorate the hundreds of for sale signs around the county. According to Northwest Multiple Listing Service, between July 7 and Oct. 7 this year, 141 deals closed in North Kitsap out of 935 listings. The listed average price was $340,294. During the same period last year, 161 deals closed out of 911 listings. The average closing price was $393,300.

With lower prices and less sales, those working in local real estate were forced to question how long to stick it out.

“Many are taking second jobs or quitting the market,” Muller said, adding his own annual income is down significantly from years past.

Caldwell Banker and Remaxx real estate no longer have businesses in Kingston and Shamrock Realty was purchased by Windemere, Muldrow said.

“Either you retrain when the market shifts like this or you retire,” he said, adding that the upside for those sticking it out is their market share is increasing.

Muldrow said the real estate market in Boston is indicative of nation wide trends.

“I don’t think anyone expects it to turn around any time soon,” he said. “There’s a couple years of uncertainty ahead.”

However, what the North End has going for it is job growth and opportunities, he said.

“The thing that is really going to turn this around in Kingston is people moving here, growth, jobs and investing in the community,” he said. “We want to draw people here from Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond and Bainbridge Island. We need people with resources to invest from the outside looking in. We want to make sure when they do look in they see something they want to invest in.

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