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Slow But Steady Sells the House

Despite selling fewer homes in 2006, Realtors believe market will stabilize in 2007.

After years of blockbuster markets and skyrocketing prices, the residential real estate market in Fairfax County is showing signs of slowing. Realtors, despite being a little disappointed for not having another record-breaking year, are cautiously optimistic that things will improve in 2007.

"The market goes in eight to 10 year cycles, and the last one started in 1996," said Bruce Tyburski, a Realtor with ReMax Choice who sells homes in the Springfield area.

Tyburski said that, in a worst-case scenario, home sales will continue to slow and prices will continue to drop in the next few months.

"Prices dropped considerably last year but they were so inflated, it pretty much had to adjust," he said.

Tyburski, who is on a sales team with his wife, Tanya, said that the market in Northern Virginia and across the greater Washington area won't slow to the same pace as other parts of the country, and pointed out that 2006 was still the third best year on record in terms of sales for the region.

"This is still a great time to buy because if we're at the beginning of the cycle, prices are just going to go up again," he said.

According to Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, Inc., a company that tracks real estate trends, the average sale price of a home in Fairfax County in 2005 was $479,230, up from $442,838 in 2004.

Year-end trend statistics for 2006 were not available by the time The Connection went to press, but comparing sales in Springfield for November 2006 with the same time a year earlier, prices had fallen from $542,078 in 2005 to an average of $521, 353 in November 2006. Homes stayed on the market an average of 74 days in November 2006, compared with 27 days in 2005.

"This is just a little hiccup," said Hayley Einseln, a Realtor with Weichert Realtors in Springfield. "The market was at a total standstill in October, November and December, but now I'm getting two or three calls per week on homes."

Einseln said that while potential buyers are not interested in one particular area of Springfield over another, those homes closer to major roadways do have a certain appeal.

"The newer, single-family homes in Kingstowne are in much demand," she said, but if people can't find a home in their price range, "we'll take them down to Woodbridge."

A potential buyer's best bet is to talk with a lender prior to shopping for a new home, Einseln said. "A lender can tell you what your buying power is, or how much of a loan you can apply for based on your credit. Financing is very important, we don't want to put people into a home they can't afford."

Century 21 broker Ron Marraccini has been in real estate since 1971 and has seen the ups and downs more than he'd care to count. His experience leads him to believe the slow sales are just temporary, a claim that's backed up by a strong start in January.

"I see people calling us and making inquiries who say they want to do something before the spring rush hits," Marraccini said.

In recent months, the biggest problem Marraccini has seen is sellers struggling to realize that prices that used to entice buyers now cause them to look elsewhere.

"Pricing in key," he said. "I had a house listed at $895,000 that had a contract on it for $850,000 within a month. The seller wouldn't take it ... now he's down to $829,500 and the house has been on the market since last April."

Marraccini said the traditionally busy spring months of April and May should prove to be fruitful again this year.

"I actually feel better when the market is on an even keel more than where we were a couple years ago," he said.