It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

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With apologies to Charles Dickens, this is the tale of two markets, the buyer's market and the seller's market, for it is both.

Our April figures reflect further declines in the majority of our market while others remain flat. For sellers this means selling at today's prices will likely mean taking a loss if they bought after 2003, while buyers will find prices sharply discounted from the feeding frenzy days of 2005 and 2006 with interest rates remarkably low.

Interest rates dropped again last week with Idaho Housing (ihfa.org) showing a rate of 4.38 percent on a conventional 30-year fixed home loan, while foreclosures continue to weigh on prices, especially in the newer neighborhoods that sprang during the building furor fueled by that same frenzy.

Lower priced homes in Post Falls, already taking a hit from foreclosures, may find their prices dropping even more as they will most certainly lose the USDA rural designation. New Census figures released on Friday show that Post Falls' population has increased to the point that it is no longer considered a rural community. Those Rural Development loans have provided funds for zero-down home loans that have kept that market afloat the last couple years.

The sellers who still stand to make a profit, are those who have owned their homes the longest. Many of those with as much as 100 percent equity stand to sell quickly given the lowest of low interest rates.

Even though the number of foreclosures and short sales have driven values down, that fact has spurred new interest among investor/buyers who can see that displaced homeowners still need roofs over their heads. By all reports the rental market is strong. So strong in fact, that a recent story in this paper predicted rising rental rates. That increase will bode equally well for those long-term owners who are thinking of selling.

Many of us are helping families into homes priced so low that, when combined with today's interest rates, the house payments with insurance and taxes are much less than an equal rental would cost. This assumes of course that the prospective buyer has good, not perfect, credit.

So the problem isn't that the conditions aren't ripe for buyers, which makes it a good market for many sellers. Buyers see very plainly that prices are far below the recent bubble period.

Sellers however, are not always as astute. Mom always said the older you get the faster time goes, so to many of these equity rich sellers, 2005 seems like yesterday. Most are reluctant, even resistant, to the reality that the home they have so many fond memories of, is worth significantly less than a couple years ago, before they were ready to sell.

Memories cannot be sold. They do not stay with the home, they live in your head and in your heart. A house without a family is only a house or, as the recently departed George Carlin said, "A house is just a big box where you keep your stuff."

It is no secret that these boxes are more affordable now than last year, even cheaper than the year before and significantly cheaper than the year before that. Rather than dwell upon what your home was worth in 2006, if you want to sell it, remember what it was worth when you bought it. No doubt you will find you are making a handsome profit on your box, even after you take the memories with you.

Trust an expert... call a Realtor. To find a Realtor to represent you visit the Coeur d'Alene Association of Realtors website at www.cdarealtors.com. There you can also search available properties in the Multiple Listing Service.

Kim Cooper is a real estate broker, Realtor and the spokesman for the Coeur d'Alene Association of Realtors. Kim and the association invite your commentary and feedback. You may contact them by calling 667-0664 or by writing to them at 409 W. Neider, Coeur d'Alene, ID 83814.

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