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RISMEDIA, Jan. 29, 2007-(MCT)-In their first joint effort, two organizations representing builders and real estate agents set a goal Thursday of raising $200,000 to fund a multimedia advertising campaign that sends the message that now is a great time to buy a house.

A meeting called by Rocky Goodwin, president of the Metro Omaha Builders Association, and Cathy Blackman, president of the Omaha Area Board of Realtors, drew about 80 people. They included builders, developers, Realtors, lenders and those who sell building materials.

No one voiced opposition to the plan, and some indicated they had committed the "platinum" sponsor amount of $5,000.

"Thank you for doing this," said Mark Palmer of NP Dodge Real Estate's builder services division. "Nobody builds a new house because they need it. They build it because they want it. The want is gone in Omaha, and we need to get it back."

Rick Kanne, a CBSHome Realtor, called the plan "one of the best things we've ever done."

Builder Denny Van Moorleghem of Regency Homes said he expected the campaign to "get everyone excited."

"We need to tell potential buyers what it's all about, because it's not bad," he said.
Several people in attendance lamented what they called "bad press" nationally about the housing slowdown. Some Omahans incorrectly believe the metro area is suffering to the same degree as markets that had steep increases in prices and sales, they said.

Omaha's more moderate sales and appreciation rates mean the slowdown hasn't been as dramatic, they said, and actually has created a positive environment for buyers.
They cited:

–Good selection of a variety of new and existing houses for sale, with market times longer to give prospective buyers a more relaxed atmosphere for considering their options. The Omaha area had about 5,400 homes listed for sale at the end of December
.
–Favorable mortgage interest rates that are only slightly above the historic lows of a couple of years ago, and a wide array of financing options. Freddie Mac reported Thursday that 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages averaged 6.25 percent this week.

–Prices have leveled off and even declined in some neighborhoods and price ranges. Many builders are offering discounted financing packages and upgrades. While flat prices might not be good news for sellers, they can expect to save at the other end of the transaction when they buy a new home.

–The economy is solid, and demographic trends signal strong housing demand for years to come, a good indicator of long-term house price appreciation.

Goodwin and Blackman worked with Jim Svoboda and Barb Miller of Redstone Communications to develop samples of a campaign with the theme: "Great time to look! Great time to buy! Get your move on."

"It's a rallying cry you can all get behind," Svoboda said.

The effort is expected to dovetail with a national advertising campaign under way by the National Association of Realtors.

Goodwin said he thinks it's important to tell consumers that "the buyers' market we've been talking about for nine months to a year is going to go away, so this is a window of opportunity."

Larry Gomez of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce told the organizations that they were "doing the right thing." He said the chamber had seen no decrease in the number of businesses planning job expansions or inquiring about moves to Omaha.
"We're working it, and we're working hard," he said.

Douglas County Register of Deeds Diane Battiato encouraged the groups to go forward. She said filing fees generated by home sales fund not only her office but also some of the county's general fund.

Slow home sales potentially "impact everyone in Douglas County," she said.

Copyright © 2007, Omaha World-Herald, Neb.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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