September-October 2014 | THE STORY OF THE HOUSING MARKET

Kari Story



Written By: Nick Brandi | Photographer: Grant L. Gursky

A healthy real estate market is an essential economic factor no matter where you live in the U.S. It is especially important down here on the Eastern Shore, however, where opportunities for would-be entrepreneurs combined with the ongoing demand for tourist/second-home/retirement-home properties represent the lifeblood of the entire region. In order to get the clearest picture possible of where things stand, we reached out to Kari Story, branch sales manager of First Home Mortgage in Ocean City, who sat down with us to discuss the current state of the real estate market in our region.

CSM: Kari, what’s going on with the market in this area these days?
KS: I think we had a slow start to the year, primarily due to the terrible winter weather. This made it tough for potential buyers to get to the beach to look at property — assuming they could even think beach while buried under a mountain of snow. However, the spring market kicked in with full force, so the Ocean City–Ocean Pines–Berlin real estate market has seen good overall improvement in the last year. We are currently experiencing a lot of buyer activity, which sellers are returning for and hoping to capitalize on. This should make for a busy fall market.

Where do home values currently stand? 
Home values appear to be increasing in most markets, and I think that is true of our market here. Interest rates remaining very low certainly helps, as well.

How long do you expect the rates to remain low?
Since the financial crash of 2008, this is one of the biggest guessing games of the entire United States economy, and I get asked this question frequently. According to some analysts, rates will not move “significantly” higher for a few years yet. There are predictions of interest rates rising possibly 1 percent by the end of 2015 and 2 percent by the end of 2016. 
The truth is, nobody knows for sure, but I think it’s safe to say that in terms of capitalizing on low interest rates, it’s wise to strike while the iron is hot. Interest rates are low now, but no one can say for sure that they will be just as low next year. People who qualify now and have the desire and commitment may wish to consider making a move sooner rather than later. 

What’s the prevailing down-payment requirement these days?
Interestingly, many buyers believe that the minimum down payment for second homes is still 20 percent, which is actually not the case. It’s been possible for quite some time now to buy a second home with as little as 10 percent down (as long as you meet the other lending requirements, of course). Additionally, there are several primary-home programs available to help first-time buyers that require little to no money down, FHA and Rural Housing (USDA) to name just a couple.


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