Health of the residential market can’t be painted with a broad brush

As president of the 6,500-member New Hampshire Association of Realtors, I’ve been concerned with the fact that recent national headlines have made their way to the local stream of consciousness, erroneously painting a picture of a statewide market reflective of a broad national downturn.

The most recent example was a piece that appeared in a New Hampshire daily newspaper with the headline, “Is this a good time to buy a home?” followed by a conclusion, “Well, no, stay on the sidelines a bit longer,” that is far too general to be relevant.

Just as one wouldn’t turn to the national weather forecast to determine whether or not it’s a good day for a raincoat, a prospective real estate consumer in New Hampshire should not use an ABC News story about national real estate trends as his or her primary source for direction in terms of buying or selling a home.

The national market is not the New Hampshire market. Whereas the median price in the nation’s worst residential real estate markets dropped by as much as 12 percent from 2006 to 2007, and the national average decline for that period was 3.3 percent, New Hampshire’s median price fell by a relatively modest 1.6 percent.

Why? Simply put, New Hampshire remains an attractive place to live. We’re consistently ranked in the top 10 statistically in terms of our tax climate, safety, standard of living and overall health, and for the fourth consecutive year, Morgan Quitno Press ranked New Hampshire as the “Most Livable State” in the country in 2007. We also have sound housing fundamentals in terms of a strong and well-educated workforce, an excellent second home market and attractive retirement opportunities.

Further, even what’s happening in New Hampshire as a whole shouldn’t dictate what an individual consumer is best-served to do. Just as New Hampshire is not the rest of the country, counties within the state are not necessarily representative of New Hampshire in general, and towns and neighborhoods within a particular county have trends all their own as well.

Mutually successful real estate agreements are being written daily. Was now the right time to buy and sell for these people? Apparently, yes.

All of this is to say, simply, that there is no single right answer for the broad spectrum of prospective home buyers and sellers that are out there. Our business as Realtors is not to blindly sell homes, but to give a proper, honest assessment to each individual client as to what is in his or her best interest.

Every market is unique, which is why we encourage everyone, with the help of a local Realtor, to look at his or her own circumstance before determining whether it’s best to act now or later.

Jim Lyons is 2008 president of the New Hampshire Association of Realtors.