Owners hope open house will lead to sale – The Commercial Appeal Newspaper in Memphis

By Michael Lollar

Posted April 12, 2010 at midnight


For these home sellers, their hopes and dreams rise and fall with each uptick or downturn in the economy. They keep their azaleas neatly clipped, their yards mowed and edged.


And across Greater Memphis, they were eager for the Realtors’ “Nationwide Open House,” a weekend of home shopping that brought out potential buyers, people who were “just looking” and others who wanted a peek at their neighbors’ things.


Some of those looking on Saturday and Sunday are trying to find a house before tax credits up to $8,000 expire April 30.


Mortgage interest rates had been in the 5 percent range before starting up again last week. Buyers hope to get in before rates go higher. Owners don’t say much about it, but they are hostage to an economy that seems to sputter even as it slowly gets back into gear.


At 186 S. Belvedere, Bill Buchanan said his sister has a liver ailment that has added a sense of urgency to selling the 4,100-square-foot house on the edge of Central Gardens. It was appraised at $494,000 and went on the market for $454,000 four months ago. The asking price is now $369,000. “My sister has $475,000 tied up in this house, so she’s losing $75,000 to sell,” said Buchanan, a psychological therapist who has shared the house while caring for his sister.


Their real estate agent, Justin Sharpe with Crye-Leike Realtors, said the price makes it one of the most affordable houses in Central Gardens. He split his time Sunday at other open houses, including one in High Point Terrace where 15 people toured a small family home that was another “major bargain.”


He didn’t make a sale on the spot Sunday, but Sharpe said he expects the open-house weekend will help, as will interest rates and tax credits. “All of those things are getting people out there and creating some excitement in the market. I think we’re going to see home sales go up.”


Each house has a story to tell. At 1367 Peabody, owner Lee Harris bought his foursquare house in 2006 and spent about six months renovating it and a garage apartment in the back that rents in the $600-a-month range.


“It’s a tough market, and I don’t know why,” said Harris, a real estate developer. Harris said the house was assessed at $350,000. He’s asking $299,900 through Keller Williams Realty.


Dan Blickhan was touring the home with two friends Sunday, and they said Harris’ house “still needs work.” They said the garage apartment looked like the “maid’s quarters.”


Agent Jessica Schreiber with George Humphreys, Inc., Realtors, welcomed six lookers in the first hour of the open house at her own home at 103 N. Fernway in East Memphis.


She is selling because she has already bought another house near a new job in the Wilmington, N.C., area. She tells lookers that the house is in the Richland-White Station school district.


“I can tell them stuff about it,” she says of the advantage of selling her own home. The disadvantage: “They may not believe me.”