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Lowell seller's lament: Not enough buyers

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis June 14, 2011 09:34 AM

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Steve bought a new home in Lowell back during the bubble years and has spent the last eight years spiffing it up.

He and his wife decided to buy the newly-built colonial after losing bidding wars for homes across the Merrimack Valley and Southern New Hampshire. At $309,900, it seemed a lot more reasonable than the other homes he had bid on, which were closer to $400,000.

Times change and Steve and his wife, who now have two young children, would like to take advantage of falling home prices to move up to a bigger house.

Under no illusions about the state of the market, Steve is ready to sell low in order to buy low.

With new hardwood floors, a professional paint job and some nice landscaping and a fence, his 1,700-square-foot colonial sparkles. And, at $289,000, it is priced right for Lowell's Belvidere neighborhood, while offering a nearly $20,000 discount from what Steve originally bought it for.

There's only one small problem - Steve can't find a buyer. In fact, he's having a hard time getting anybody to come and check it out.

So when he read my post suggesting that buyers face a dearth of decent homes at reasonable prices to choose from, Steve fired off this email to me.


Hi Scott,

I read your article "Dearth of decent homes hobbles market" just now. I'm a seller and am feeling the problem in a different way. I have an 8-yr old home in Lowell (Christian Hill area, right on the Dracut line) that is getting essentially NO traffic. It's one of the nicer properties in the area listed under $300K. You might argue it?s over-priced at $289K, and you are probably right. But to your point in the article, if there is such a shortage of decent homes, you'd think that even on an over-priced home, you'd get some traffic and potentially some low-ball offers, wouldn't you? I look at competitive listings regularly (of which there are few), and feel as though my property is just as good or better.
My point in this email isn't for sympathy - I hardly need that. I'm living in a nice house that I can afford and my world is in otherwise great shape. But in reading your article, I wonder if it's not just the inventory that's keeping things slow, but I have to wonder if it's just an utter lack of available credit keeping people off the market? Why else would house rentals be up and sales be down?

So gang, what's your take? Is it possible to sell low to buy low in this market? Should Steve look at going even lower in price, or should he instead put his hopes for trading up on hold for a few years?

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About boston real estate now
Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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