Tim and Christine Forsberg have looked at hundreds of houses on the Internet and visited scores more. They have made offers. They have mortgage approval from the Pawtucket Credit Union and they are prepared with the help of family to enter a conventional mortgage with 20 percent down. Still they haven’t been able to close on a house.
For the young couple, married in 2009, and looking for, Something for a dog and to have a family, as Christine says, the search has been an eye opener to the housing market and the complications of buying. They have been in properties where the copper piping has been ripped out of the walls, windows broken and the place needs to virtually be rebuilt. Other properties have been vacant for months and longer, looking as if the former owners just packed up and left.
“It’s a free-for-all for thieves,” Tim said. With so many single-family homes on the market (6,965 according to Homes.Com) it would seem the Forsbergs are in the drivers seat.
Even when they reach an agreement with a seller, as happened last week, they have encountered obstacles. Since their $125,000 offer is less than the mortgage held by the owner, the sale needs bank approval. The asking price for the home was $129,900.
There’s another side to the Forsbergs’ story that provides them an insight to the housing market and the economy. They don’t see conditions improving.
Tim lost his job at Bank of America soon after the couple married. He was out of work for a year before finding his job at the Rhode Island Mentoring Partnership. Since then, he’s taken on a second part time job. Christine works at the Citizens Bank service center in Warwick.
While owning a home seems within their reach, starting a family isn’t. Now 34 years old, Tim never imagined that would be the case.
“Well have to wait for the kids. The money is not there to do that,” he said.
And they have seen the housing market from the seller’s vantage, too. They are living in the Johnston home where Tim and his sister were brought up. They are renting the property from his mother, who lives in Florida in a house she owns. She wants sell her Johnston home for $199,900. It has been listed for months. The price has dropped and there are still few lookers. Now that the odor of the landfill wafts through the neighborhood, Tim can’t imagine how the property will ever sell.
So many Johnston homes are vacant in the neighborhood that there are concerns over the quality of the water deteriorating because usage is way down. Much of the neighborhood is vacant but many properties don’t have for sale signs on them.
Tim doesn’t offer a bright outlook.
“I still think there could be another drop of 10 to 20 percent [in home prices]. The question is, when do you catch a falling knife?” he says. He praises the realtor, Christine DiNardi of Keller Williams, who has persistently pursued every lead.
Jamie Moore, president of the Rhode Island Association of Realtors wishes she had the answer. As an appraiser, Moore has a much broader view of the market than most realtors. She said there is a shadow of foreclosures to still hit the market although she isn’t doing as much pre-foreclosure work as she had been doing.
Moore expects it will take some time for those homes to flush out of the market and prices to increase.
With interest rates and prices low, she concludes this is a good time to buy. But she also finds the national mood holding back the market.
People are so scared to do anything. That keeps them on the sidelines.
Nonetheless, she takes heart in the Forsbergs account of being outbid for one property as an indication that the market could be turning.
According to the associations October report with a total of 548 sales statewide, more homes sold in Warwick for the month than in any other municipality. Seventy homes sold in the city at a median price of $156,000 as compared to the states median price of $182,250. Both the city’s and the state median price were down from a year ago. The city price was down by nearly 9 percent whereas statewide the price was off by more than 17 percent.
The association attributes the decrease in median price to a 27 percent increase in short sales and foreclosures. Homes.Com lists 1,037 foreclosures in the state.
Such distressed sales predominantly occur in the lower price ranges and substandard conditions often result in discounted prices, bringing the overall median price down, reads the association release.
Christine Forsberg remains hopeful. The Buttonwoods property would be ideal. It’s close to her parents, which would enable them to check on them. It’s not too far from work. It’s near Park School that is the first Warwick school to be designated a Blue Ribbon School. It would appear to be the place to build their dreams.
We need a Christmas miracle, she says.