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RISMEDIA, April 30, 2007-(MCT)-What should you expect from the housing market? Those selling homes no longer have the luxury of multiple suitors. They have to be willing to deal. If 20 homes are for sale in your neighborhood, you better be selling one of the cheaper ones.

"With this many homes on the market, one out of two will sell. If you want to be that one, you've got to be competitive," said Lisa Burbage, a real estate broker with Prudential Carolina Real Estate. "With so many choices, pricing has got to be a variable. It's a critical factor."

But many agents say sellers still are living in the glory days, when house values rose quicker than the Lowcountry temperature. Curb appeal has never been more important, agents say, and it is crucial to allow more time, up to six months, to sell.

LENDERS: The downturn means lenders must rely more on how they treated buyers in the past. "This is a referral- based business," said Sean Davis, a loan officer at Old South Mortgage Corp. "You need to be proactive and be thankful for the client base you've built over the past five, six, seven years."

RENTERS: Despite the overabundance of homes for sale, monthly house rental prices are reaching the same level as a monthly mortgage payment. "The price range has accelerated beyond the local economy," said Gene Plyler, associate broker at Dick Luke Co.

BUYERS: House shoppers have the luxury of choice and time on their side. Some are searching foreclosures for homes bought during the bubble that former owners could no longer afford. All the choices have made some buyers picky and others less rushed. And they are hoping prices will fall even lower, compounding the market stagnation.

"Falling from a fantastic market to a normal one is not a crunch," said Sam G. Berry, a visiting professor of finance at The Citadel. "You're not going to go out and steal anything right now. It's just going to be a reasonable price, which will seem like a steal.
First-time home buyers are finding the abundance of inventory helpful.

People with good credit are likely to find mortgage lenders more than happy to see them coming.

REAL ESTATE AGENTS: These are lean times. Franne Schwarb, of Keller Williams Realty, has recorded only one closing this quarter. She's responded by pushing Internet business even more.

"It's more important you hold your seller's hand now than it was before," she said. There are no plans to cut her commission, but she said, "if it makes a difference between making a deal or not, we might."

The number of homes for sale in the Charleston market:

On Tuesday — 10,145
Last Year — 7,047
Two Years Ago — 4,168

Source: Charleston Trident Association of Realtors' Multiple Listing Service

Copyright © 2007, The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.