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Paying more for less

Real estate agents: slim pickings make it a seller’s market

In this Tuesday April 2, 2013, photo, Christian Bell and his wife Beth Heinen Bell view a home for sale in Grand Rapids, Mich. The housing shortage around Grand Rapids, Mich., a city known for its furniture-making industry and sleek downtown hospital complex, is fairly typical of what the country as a whole is facing this spring. Like so many others, Grand Rapids never experienced the oversupply or the massive price collapse that marked the recent boom and bust. Yet it, too, was affected. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

In this Tuesday April 2, 2013, photo, Christian Bell and his wife Beth Heinen Bell view a home for sale in Grand Rapids, Mich. The housing shortage around Grand Rapids, Mich., a city known for its furniture-making industry and sleek downtown hospital complex, is fairly typical of what the country as a whole is facing this spring. Like so many others, Grand Rapids never experienced the oversupply or the massive price collapse that marked the recent boom and bust. Yet it, too, was affected. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Real estate agents, who deal directly with buyers and sellers, are in a position to know firsthand what’s on the minds of both groups when it comes to home sales.

A new report from Redfin, the real estate brokerage, found buyers in the fourth quarter continued to be frustrated by the slim pickings among inventory, were willing to pay more than a seller’s asking price, and were willing to settle for less when it comes to home features.

Redfin’s national survey of 468 agents provides insight into a housing market that continues to experience tightening inventories, rising home prices and mortgage rates that continued to trend upward.

Most agents continued to think it’s a good time to buy a home (56 percent versus 55 percent in the third quarter), even if 63 percent believe sellers have “unrealistic expectations” about the value of their properties.

Among other findings:

∎ Eighty-seven percent of agents said limited inventory was buyers’ biggest challenge.

∎ Fewer agents think now is a good time to sell a home — 65 percent in the fourth quarter compared with 72 percent in the third quarter and 86 percent in the second quarter — even if the overwhelming majority still think the time is right.

∎ About 30 percent said buyers were “flexible on features” and were “prepared to waive contingencies” to win a bid.

Ennis Antoine, associate broker at Better Homes and Garden Real Estate Metro Brokers in Atlanta, said some buyers are settling for less house because they may face a time crunch in finding a place to live. Others aren’t compromising on location, but may settle for a home that is smaller or a little dated.

Antoine said he’s advising clients to be patient. “You have to understand there’s not a lot of inventory, and when you find the home you want, you have to give your best offer initially because there’s no haggling. You can’t bargain down.”

The Redfin survey also found agents were concerned that rising interest rates would limit home sales, with 39 percent believing that if rates exceeded 5.5 percent sales and price growth would suffer. Other agents put the threshold at 6 percent.

The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose this week to 4.69 percent from 4.63 percent the previous week, according to weekly data from Bankrate.

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