Joe: team ulster, a Prudential Nutshell Realty, is proud to present the Ulster County Real Estate Podcast.


Can you believe these mortgage rates? Welcome to the January edition of our podcast. From Wall Street to Main Street, loan mortgage rates have created some great opportunities in our local market. Stay tuned as we discuss recent market trends and strategies for getting the best loan possible. It's all coming up next.


We're here today with team ulster from Prudential Nutshell Realty. What's happening right now in the Ulster County real estate market?


laurel sweeney: Hi, Joe. Well, I beg to give you some information about our local real estate market. I've been taking a close look at the statistics and have some really interesting information for both buyers and sellers. The average selling price for a home in Ulster County in 2007 was $302,000. In 2008, the average selling price is $290,000. In 2007, we sold 1,387 homes and in 2008, 1,038 homes. The above represents a decrease in the number of homes sold in the past 12 months at 25%. The decrease, as an average in meeting sell prices, were only 4% and 5%, respectively, in a year where the Standard & Poor index lost 38%.


These statistics should also be compared to the National Association of Realtors. Which shows a national median home price decrease of 21.7% from July '06 to November '08. Here in Ulster County, homes, actually, had a net increase during the same time period. The relatively stable market for homes in Ulster County is in no small part due to our connection with New York City. It's also our strong commitment here to reasonable development and subdivision of land. We've not had an over abundance of new construction over the last 10 years as compared to many other areas of the country, which are now suffering.


It's now a great time to be a home buyer with the greatest selection in a decade. A wide variety of inventory from which to choose. We also have the lowest number of foreclosed homes in all of New York State. Of course, mortgage money is available at near record low interest rates. The Federal government is also offering a first time homebuyer tax credit of $7,500 for home purchased before July 1st. In addition, we've got motivated sellers ready and needing to move. Most importantly, this is the opportunity of a lifetime to accumulate wealth through home ownership.


Joe: OK, thanks. For a national perspective today, we're also joined by Terry Murphy, real estate author and columnist from US Learning in Memphis, Tennessee. Terry, share with us what you're seeing nationally.


Terry Murphy: Joe, for many of us, 2008 was a difficult year. It presented a number of challenges for the economy. But fortunately, there are already things and positive action in 2009 and this really bodes well for our local real estate market as we ring in the New Year.


Now, for instance, a Federal Reserves decision to lower interest rates has made things, considerably, easier for homebuyers and homeowners who need to refinance. This would, significantly, impact housing sales, home valuations, and the nation's overall economy. As a result, mortgage rates, which have averaged about 6.3 in the third quarter of last year, had, recently fallen into the 4% range in some parts of the country and this is the lowest rate in nearly 50 years. This will bring buyers back to the market.


Now, this is, perhaps, the best buyer's market in modern history with higher inventories, slower window activity, and low, low interest rates. Wow! There are a lot of factors that play here. The key to all of these, Joe, is that buyers must be credit worthy. Credit regulations have shifted, and our definition of credit worthiness has changed as well. Buyers should do everything they can to maintain and guard their credit rating and take advantage of today's opportunities.


Joe: Thanks, Terry. These changes in credit will have an impact on everyday buying and selling. Laurel, how do you advice your clients?


Laurel: Joe, it is becoming increasingly important for our buyers to maintain good credit when applying for a mortgage. The higher your credit score, the lower your interest rate. We have a number of reliable mortgage planners to call on who help us find the best loan for our clients. Then, it's a matter of the buyer doing their part.


Joe: What can a buyer do to make sure they're qualified for the best rate?


Laurel: My first suggestion would be to review your credit report for accuracy. The three main credit reporting agencies - Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion - will provide a free report each year just for the asking. It's a great program and here's a tip when ordering your reports. Instead of ordering all three reports at once, consider staggering your request throughout the year. Which will allow you to check your reports more frequently. Any mistakes on your report should be corrected immediately.


Second, make sure you pay your bills on time. This is huge. Up to 35% of our credit score is based on our payment history. Even if you've had a rough spot in the past, you can still bring up a low score by simply paying your bills each month.


Joe: What else can people do?


Laurel: Buyers should do their best to manage their existing credit accounts and reduce their debts. It's great if you can pay off your outstanding accounts, but it's not critical. Banks just want to see people manage their accounts responsibly.


Terry: You know, Joe, that's a great point. Having a few open accounts will not hurt you as long as you're not abusing them. On the other hand, Joe, closing down accounts may look bad if done right before applying for your loan.


Laurel: That's right. We should also note that mortgage companies are looking for ways to help. There are great programs out there, even if you have less than perfect credit. Perspective buyers owe it to themselves to contact us for more details. We're more than happy to help.


Joe: Great. We'll share your contact information next. Thanks so much for helping us with today's program.


Laurel: You're welcome, Joe. We'll talk next month.


Joe: For more information on our program or for information on the Ulster County real estate market, contact team ulster from Prudential Nutshell Realty. You can reach them at 845-687-2200. You can also find Team Ulster online at Until next time, thank you for listening to the Ulster County Real Estate Podcast.