BUYERS, SELLERS DIFFER ON RIGHT PRICE LEVEL

THE BALTIMORE SUN

More than two thirds of home sellers believe their homes should be priced higher than an agent's recommended listing price, while two thirds of buyers believe homes are overpriced, say Maryland real estate agents in a HomeGain poll released Monday.

But at the same time, homeowners clearly understand that home values have plummeted, according to a separate survey.

A second-quarter survey by real estate Web site HomeGain shows buyers and sellers sharply at odds. The trend in Maryland reflects the poll's national findings, which show that more than two-thirds of home sellers think their home is worth more than the recommended price, and nearly two-thirds of the buyers believe homes are overpriced.

The disconnect between buyers and sellers is exacerbated by a wave of foreclosures on sale for below-market prices, according to the survey of more than 1,150 agents nationally, 26 of them in Maryland.

HomeGain, an Emeryville, Calif., home valuation web site started a decade ago, said the survey's 2 percent representation from Maryland reflects Maryland's population in the U.S.

A separate survey released last week by Seattle-based Zillow.com, an online provider of information about homes and mortgages launched in 2006, showed that despite some resistance to lowering prices, homeowners do understand that values have fallen. A majority - 60 percent - said they believe their own home lost value during the past year, according to Zillow's first-quarter Homeowner Confidence Survey. Some 80 percent of homes across the country actually lost value in the past year, according the Web site's first-quarter Real Estate Market Reports.

Compared with results of HomeGain's first quarter survey - in which nearly half of sellers believed they could sell for up to 20 percent more than their agent's suggested price - the latest HomeGain poll suggests sellers have begun to temper their expectations to meet market demand.

"Home sellers seem to be getting the message that perhaps their homes are not worth as much as they thought they were, while buyers are expecting to find a bargain on every corner," said Louis Cammarosano, general manager of HomeGain.

In the survey, one agent from Howard County said that the market has shifted since February from a buyer-oriented market to a more neutral market, led by first-time buyers, with the gap between what sellers ask and buyers offer narrowing from as much as 15 percent to about five percent. In some areas, that has helped spur sales and reduce inventory levels.

In Crofton, in Anne Arundel County, inventory has decreased from about nine months' worth to about seven months' worth, said Greta Saliger of Long & Foster.

"Historically, six months of inventory means a regular market for us," she said.

The Maryland agents said in nearly half their listings they end up with a 5 percent to 10 percent difference between what sellers want and the eventual for-sale price.

Agents polled in Maryland were nearly evenly split on whether prices would fall or stay the same in the next six months. About 18 percent said they expect prices to rise.

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