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RISMEDIA, Jan. 3, 2007-(MCT)-Sales are evening out in the real estate market and are expected to hold steady through 2007, said Emerald Coast Association of Realtors CEO Barry Stafford.

The market's biggest hurdles are property taxes and homeowner's insurance, he said.

Stafford led a group of 2007's ECAR leaders in a discussion with local media.

Present were ECAR President Harry Millsaps, President-elect Cliff Chaplin, Secretary/Treasurer Glenda Glover, Assistant Treasurer Jan Huyser, Fort Walton Beach Director Bob Hudgens and Panama City Beach Director Kathy Hasbrouck, along with Kelly Cameron and Judy Catrett-Sheridan who are members of ECAR's public relations committee.

"2007 is going to be a fabulous year for Realtors," Millsaps said. "We had a nice October and sales were up in November over last year. Things are really taking off for 2007."
ECAR is working with the state to find a solution to the increases in homeowner's insurance.

Hudgens said he'd heard of cases where Realtors had lost sales because the would-be buyer couldn't afford homeowner's insurance or the property taxes.

"It seems to hit first-time homeowners most," he said.

Stafford said the area has been fortunate in the past to have had insurance rates as low as they were.

Growth in the area's market has sustained an 8-12% increase in residential sales revenue from 2000 to 2007.

"We had to work to make sales overall," Hudgens said. "This past year has been more of a reality check. People are beginning to see where they need to price their homes.

"The market is what sets a home's value, not Realtors," he said. "It's simply what people are willing to pay. Realistic sellers are selling their properties."

Chaplin said sellers were spoiled when the market peaked in 2004 and 2005.

"Sellers have had to adjust their expectations," he said. "Realtors used to have a home sold before they could even get a sign on the lawn."

Real estate has always been more of a steady, long-term investment, he said.

Glover said it's the Realtors' duty to help sellers realize we're in a stable market.

"2004 and 2005 were the aberration years," Stafford said. "We had the most sales in history for this area in those years.

"Now, sales are right where they would have been had 2004 and 2005 never been so great," he said.

Copyright © 2006, Destin Log, Florida.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.