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January 10. 2014 3:08PM

Redfin Survey

Homebuyers willing to pay more for less, real estate agents say

Donald, right, and Stacy McCray, pictured December 2013, plan to put their two story home in Orange Park Acres on the market sometime in January, joining what forecasters say will be an increase in the number of people selling their homes in 2014. (Sam Gangwer/Orange County Register/MCT)

Real estate agents, who deal directly with buyers and sellers, are in a position to know firsthand what's on the minds of both groups when it comes to home sales.

A new report from Redfin, the real estate brokerage, found buyers in the fourth quarter continued to be frustrated by the slim pickings among inventory, were willing to pay more than a seller's asking price, and were willing to settle for less when it comes to home features.

Redfin's national survey of 468 agents provides insight into a housing market that continues to experience tightening inventories, rising home prices and mortgage rates that continued to trend upward.

Most agents continued to think it's a good time to buy a home (56 percent versus 55 percent in the third quarter), even if 63 percent believe sellers have “unrealistic expectations” about the value of their properties.

Among other findings:

• Eighty-seven percent of agents said limited inventory was buyers' biggest challenge.

• Fewer agents think now is a good time to sell a home — 65 percent in the fourth quarter compared with 72 percent in the third quarter and 86 percent in the second quarter — even if the overwhelming majority still think the time is right.

• About 30 percent said buyers were “flexible on features” and were “prepared to waive contingencies” to win a bid.

Ennis Antoine, associate broker at Better Homes and Garden Real Estate Metro Brokers in Atlanta, said some buyers are settling for less house because they may face a time crunch in finding a place to live. Others aren't compromising on location, but may settle for a home that is smaller or a little dated.

Antoine said he's advising clients to be patient. “You have to understand there's not a lot of inventory, and when you find the home you want, you have to give your best offer initially because there's no haggling. You can't bargain down.”

The Redfin survey also found agents were concerned that rising interest rates would limit home sales, with 39 percent believing that if rates exceeded 5.5 percent sales and price growth would suffer. Other agents put the threshold at 6 percent.

Federal Reserve policymakers plan to do less in stimulating the economy by keeping interest rates low, which means mortgage rates, which have already been on the rise, will continue to trend upward.

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