- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 12, 2004

I heard a news story the other day on a local radio station that blew me away. A local real estate agent has a condo listing that has lingered on the market for a while and called a reporter to complain about it. The reporter quoted him and determined that the real estate market in Montgomery County was, indeed, slowing down.

What’s ludicrous about this is that the president of the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors, James Kneussl Jr., had also been interviewed for the story, he says, and he shared with the reporter how all numbers were heading upward — except for one, the days on market. It was taking a shorter period of time for houses to sell in Montgomery County — 18 on average. That indicates a fast-moving market.

When he heard the story air, he expected to hear his quotes coming out to balance the naysaying agent. But it didn’t happen. The reporter quoted the agent’s negative observation instead of sticking to the local statistics that were shared with her and that were readily available online and through other sources.

This is a prime example of how you shouldn’t believe everything you hear or read in the media.

One way to get to the bottom of any real estate market very quickly is by looking up your local or state Realtor association on the Web and clicking on the link that leads to market statistics.

Not all local associations carry statistics. In those cases, the state associations do. Furthermore, in some localities, the statistical data may be hosted by the local multiple-listing service, which might be owned by a separate entity.

In the Washington suburban area, that Web site is www.mris.com, the official Web site for Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc. Here, you’ll find two monthly pull-down reports for MLS information for 56 counties and cities in the company’s coverage area, from Pennsylvania to Virginia.

It’s a great tool to use to see where home price trends are headed. It’s not such a great tool to price your house because it’s too broad to determine an individual home’s current value.

Nevertheless, if you want to know how your market is moving — up or down — finding the local jurisdiction’s Web site is a very good start.

To locate any local set of statistics, simply click by www.realtor.com; scroll down the page; and click State & Local Associations, under About the National Association of Realtors. Then just go down to your local Realtor association from the state level.

You may find your local association, then determine that they don’t carry their local stats. Click back to the state list, and click the state’s Web site, which usually carries all the numbers for the state, county by county.

Your best source of finding out the value of your home is still by using your neighborhood real estate specialist or appraiser. The numbers you’ll find reported on an association’s site are a look at your community on a county or city level.

To find out your home value, you need an analysis of homes that have sold in your neighborhood like your house, and the local sales force or appraisal group is best equipped to determine that value.

Regardless of whether your market is hot or cold, if your home is lingering on the market, it doesn’t mean the whole market is falling — it may mean you simply have priced it too high or the condition of your property does not reflect your asking price. If that’s the case, review your pricing with your listing agent and discuss a price drop.

Keep in mind that the “market” doesn’t care how much you put into the remodeling or how much money you think you can get out of it. The market reflects what the buyer is willing to pay and what sellers are willing to accept, period.

M. Anthony Carr has written about real estate for more than 15 years. Contact him by e-mail ([email protected]erols.com).

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