That was the assessment of Dan Broyles, president of the Southwest Missouri Board of Realtors, in looking at the present state of the housing market in the bi-county area. Even though economic conditions have slipped in the real estate business over the last two years, Broyles saw a number of positive signs in the current market.
"I think in 2010 we will see a leveling out of property values and the number of properties sold," Broyles said. "I don't anticipate much of a recovery until after the first of the year. Probably by the next selling cycling, say, in March 2010, we'll see sales at the bottom or an actual increase. We're not out of the woods yet."
In the meantime, the number of houses on the market has stayed high. With low interest rates and money available for first-time home buyers, Broyles felt current conditions were right for people shopping for a house.
Several indicators point out how far the housing market has slowed over the past three years. According to figures compiled by the Southwest Missouri Board of Realtors, Realtors sold 165 properties in the 12 months ending in July, 2007. In the next 12 months, Realtors sold 131 properties, a 21 percent reduction. In the last 12 months, Realtors sold 121 properties, an 8 percent dip from the previous year.
Broyles sees the slow down in a decline in sales as a positive sign. He nonetheless expected the decline would probably continue at 4 to 5 percent through 2009, heading into a traditionally slow winter.
The sales slowdown seems to have affected houses in the low, middle and high price ranges. Broyles looked at what had been on the market in the 12 months ending in July 2008. There had been 143 two-bedroom houses listed, and 64 sold. Looking at larger three-bedroom houses, 60 were listed, and 26 sold. Twenty four-bedroom houses were listed, and seven sold.
In the past 12 months, Broyles said, there were 131 two-bedroom houses listed, and 70 sold. Among three-bedroom houses, 46 were listed, and 20 sold. Only 10 four-bedroom houses went on the market, and four sold.
Broyles said the amount of time needed to sell houses has increased under current conditions. Between July 2007 and July 2008, the average time a property was listed on the market until it sold was 138 days. In the past 12 months, the average increased to 149 days.
"Houses are available," Broyles said. "A lot of people are letting their listing expire and not relisting because they are frustrated. This is in keeping with what is happening in the big picture in the real estate market across the country.
"Consumer confidence is an issue. People are holding it close to the vest," Broyles added. "They hear doom and gloom on the national news and freeze up. But if people go on with their plans, they could get a good house, at a good interest rate and a good price."
Prices have softened in the local market. In the year ending in July 2007, the average sale price of a single-family home in the Monett area was $105,000. By July 2008, the average price in a year had grown to $111,000. In the past 12 months, the average dropped 11 percent to $98,883.
Broyles said the price drop shows that even in southwest Missouri there had been a price bubble. The artificial inflation in value has been evening out in the past year, a trend that may continue for perhaps another six months, he said.
Compared to other parts of the country, Broyles found the real estate bubble to be small in the Monett area. In some areas, like California, Florida and Michigan, Broyles said drops in prices of 30 to 50 percent have been seen.
"Property values have not been artificially inflated here," Broyles said. "Historically, property values have not gone up that much and not decreased that much. It's pretty much been steady as you go."
The current market is particularly favorable for first-time home buyers who qualify for the $8,000 tax credit under the federal stimulus package.
"I can't say how often I've talked to people whom I run into in the grocery store who say, 'I'll bet it's really bad right now for real estate.' I tell them, if you're in the market to buy, there are some good deals, good interest rates and good programs available," Broyles said.
Broyles considered the Monett housing market to be stronger than most. Monett's industrial and employment base has supported a more vibrant economy, and the stability of the job base, Broyles thought, has helped stabilize real estate more than in other nearby towns.