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ON THE HOT SEAT

Casting a hopeful eye on housing market

Pat Villani is now president of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in New England.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Pat Villani

President, Coldwell Banker

Residential Brokerage in

New England

Pat Villani was named president of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in New England in January, about seven years into a statewide housing slowdown. Massachusetts home prices have fallen about 20 percent since the top of the market in 2005, bouncing up, then down over the last two years. Villani, 63, oversees the operations of 90 real estate offices in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Maine. She recently spoke with Globe reporter Jenifer B. McKim about real estate, the crucial spring selling season, and signs of optimism for the market.

We are right in the middle of the spring market, crucial to the health of the industry. What is happening?

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We have properties going on the market with 20, 30, 40, 50, 100 people coming to see them. We are in a multiple ­offer situation again, which is really great for the seller.

What is happening?

Last fall, people were sitting back on the fence saying: “Let’s wait and see what happens.” People are tired of waiting. They are ready to move forward. The interest rates are just phenomenal right now.

What should a buyer do if they find themselves in a bidding situation. Better to bail or overpay?

They need solid advice from their realtor as to their own personal circumstance. What is that home worth to them? Buyers always have determined prices of properties.

The risk is you overpay.

But for some people it is worth it. The home is worth it. The community is worth it. They will be in the home for a while. It will be OK.

With increased sales, are you expecting prices to follow?

Absolutely, supply and demand.

So, have we hit the bottom of the local housing market?

We’ve felt like we’ve been at the bottom for quite a while. There are pockets where I think we are out of the bottom. There are other communities where they are struggling more. The attitude of the consumer is that they are ready to move forward. When you have consumer confidence then you are really on your way out. We have some good indicators.

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Values are back right now to about where they were in 2002. When do you think we will see the top numbers again?

Nobody can guess. It depends on the community.

What are current challenges in the foreclosure market?

It can be a really long process for a buyer. They really need to know what they are in for when they decide to go forward with an offer.

Short sales — where sellers unload their homes for less than the size of their mortgage with cooperation from their lender — have been notoriously slow going. Are they getting any easier?

We haven’t seen that change yet, but we are hoping that it is going to get better. That is what we are being told.

Are you seeing any change in what buyers are looking for?

A lot of people don’t want to do a lot of work on a property. Staging is very important right now. People want to come in and say, “I can move in here and Saturday night have a dinner party.” And a lot of people have scaled down in the size house they want.

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I’ve noticed that the mantra among real estate agents is always that it is a good time to buy. Have you ever had a time when you told clients it wasn’t a good time to buy?

Only when I have had clients that I felt it was not a good time for them personally. It really depends on what the person’s needs are.

Is there ever not a good time to buy?

No. Buyers really are always looking to move regardless of how good or bad the real estate industry is.

Even when home values are at their peak?

In that case, they may be paying a lot for a home, but they probably sold one for substantially more than what they had originally thought they were going to get. It equals out.


Jenifer B. McKim can be reached at jmckim@globe.com. Follow her on twitter @jbmckim.