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Because Real Estate Market Isn't on Easy Street

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By Michelle Singletary
Thursday, March 30, 2006

I have a dear friend who recently put her townhouse on the market. It's a lovely home. But my friend is worried because the house hasn't sold.

It's been on the market for about eight weeks.

"We waited too long," my friend lamented. "Back in the day, three to four months on the market wouldn't be a big deal. It's just that the market was so fast recently that it seems so slow now."

As the weather warms around the country and the high season for home selling begins, I know a lot of other people with homes to sell will be sweating like my friend.

So is the housing market bursting its bubble?

This is a question being asked by folks looking to sell and those in the market to buy. It's certainly on the minds of those who dream of homeownership but don't have the funds to do anything but dream.

If you're not sure what to do in this real estate market, I suggest you pick up the Color of Money Book Club selection for April. I'm recommending "House Poor: Pumped-Up Prices, Rising Rates, and Mortgages on Steroids" (Collins, $21.95) by June Fletcher.

Fletcher, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, has been writing about real estate and home-related issues for more than 20 years. She also writes the weekly House Talk column for Realestatejournal.com, the Journal's online real estate section.

I've been looking for a real estate book to recommend for a while now. But too many are written by folks who are so tied to the industry they can't be objective or they overly promote (recklessly in some cases) the prospect of anyone and everyone getting Bill Gates-rich buying and selling real estate.

"House Poor" is different. In fact, on the cover of the book Fletcher promises tips to "survive the coming housing crisis."

Consider this: Mortgage interest rates have been climbing. In early March, the average contract rate for 30-year fixed mortgages increased to 6.42 percent, the highest level since July 2002 when rates averaged 6.46 percent, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

In many areas of the country, homes are staying on the market much longer than in recent years. Home prices are coming down or aren't rising at rates that would make one's pacemaker falter.


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