Become a ’Housing Market Geek!’

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Merriam-Webster defines a “geek” as 1. a carnival performer often billed as a wild man whose act usually includes biting the heads off a live chicken or snake, 2. a person often of an intellectual bent who is disliked, or 3. an enthusiast or expert, particularly in a technology field or activity.

Guess which of those definitions Coldwell Banker Best Realty Agent Clint Freeman was teaching his audience to aspire to in his “Housing Market Geek Training 101” presentation at last week’s Economic Outlook Conference?

The local realtor examined the local housing market and broke it down into terms that he said would allow anyone to become a “housing market geek.”

Not only is geek the new chic, Freeman told his audience, but gaining a greater understanding of the market allows individuals to make smarter decisions about the value of their homes and how to leverage that information to the best possible advantage.

Freeman said that while attractive and well-priced homes sell very quickly here, many buyers are having a hard time finding the homes they want. Right now there are 117 homes listed on the market.

The good news is that interest rates are at a historic low, floating between 3.5 and 4 percent.

But he cautioned that the most popular loans, those from the Federal Housing Administration, are about to see mortgage insurance increase from 1.25 to 1.35 percent. If a tenth of a percent does not seem like much money, that translates to about $17 per month (or $204 per year) for a home valued at $200,000.

Other changes coming down the pike include stricter standards for loan approval. While the current minimum credit score (the lowest score) for a prospective homeowner is 620, that minimum is about to be changed to 640.

Freeman gave some background to his listeners about the trends in the local market. In 2005, home values spiked in correlation to positive results announced from that BRAC. But in 2006, local home values dropped about 35 percent.

So anyone who purchased a home in 2006 may be under water with their home loan. “And hopefully, you don’t have any sharks lurking.”

In terms of value, prices are currently reflecting what homes were worth in 2003-04. As of January the average price per square foot was $91.

About 27 percent of all homes sold in Ridgecrest are foreclosed homes, said Freeman.

He also pointed out that Bakersfield made the Top Ten list of cities where homes sell the fastest, placing No. 6 in the country.

In terms of lines on a graph, Freeman said that “our recovery is going to resemble an ‘L’ rather than a ‘V.’” While the local market is no longer in free-falling mode, he said he does not anticipate a steep climb in prices in the near future, either.

“Buyers are going to have to jump over some hurdles, and sellers are going to have to hang in there,” he said. “There’s a rather flat road ahead!”

Story First Published: 2013-02-27