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Resolved: To Buy, Sell or Finish

The softer market
The softer market "means you work a little bit harder and a little bit smarter," says Cosmopolitan Properties founder Sonya Abney. (By Nikki Kahn -- The Washington Post)

He bought two this year and wants to get four more next year, so sure is he that the market is ripe for long-term investors such as him.

"Interest rates have gone way down. And inventory has gone way up. It's definitely a buyer's market right now," said Livingstone, owner of Cornerstone First Financial, a mortgage brokerage firm in the District. "Those who have the equity can take the money out and invest."

Livingstone, 39, said he is not worried about real estate values declining significantly in 2007, in part because of what he believes is a kind of built-in safety net in the local market. "Our market is politics, government," he said. "So you're always going to have that. There's no bubble in the D.C. market."

Nelson Mendes, who became a mortgage broker in Arlington this year, thinks buyers will have an edge in 2007, at least for the first six months. His goals for the new year are to set up $30 million in mortgages and to establish "preferred-lender" status with builders.

Sonya Abney, founder of Cosmopolitan Properties in the District, just capped off her company's first full calendar year in business with a staff holiday party. For the past month, she and her staff of 20 real estate agents have been meeting and setting individual goals for 2007.

Abney would like to see the firm double its total sales volume next year to $50 million, hire 15 agents and open a second office, perhaps in Prince George's County. Cosmopolitan opened its doors in May 2005 with three agents.

Abney, 39, also wants the company to expand its community work. This year, she said, the firm bought uniforms for a Little League baseball team in the Shaw neighborhood; next year, it wants to sponsor the team's games and banquets. This year, the company started a welfare-to-work program, hiring two women for part-time positions doing administrative work. Abney wants to hire more next year.

The softening market, she said, does not have to mean less profit.

"It means you work a little bit harder and a little bit smarter," she said. "I don't plan to take a dip in my salary. We don't plan to downsize the community effort."

Many aren't looking to buy or sell, but still have ambitious goals for their homes.

Monique Hanis and her environmentally conscious family this past spring installed solar panels on the roof of their North Arlington home. Next year, they want to put in a rainwater catchment system, which collects rain in a tank for use later in the garden. Additionally, Hanis's husband, Douglas Warnecke, is resolving to finish insulation work in their son's bedroom.

"I did half of it about a year ago," Warnecke said. "I need to do the other half."


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