"First-time buyers are back."
That's just some of the good residential news from Clifford Helbock, broker associate at Berkshire Hathaway Home Services in Escondido.
"We just had an economic forecast with [Chairman and CEO] Warren Buffett, who owns us, who said there was about a 20 percent increase in home-sale prices last year, and he sees that going up probably another 10 percent this year," Helbock said.
"In our particular area in North County, the average sale price is about $400,000, which is up about $100,000 from last year. Buyers are coming off the fence," he added. "Interest rates are the lowest they've been in years, even though there's been a bit of a spike upward, and I think that's starting to spur some of the buyers."
Helbock attributes many of the first-timers to just-implemented Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac programs that provide a 20-day "first look" timeframe that bars investors from bidding on new property listings. This gives buyers the chance to secure financing, and win bids before investors have an opportunity to buy the home with cash.
"I think this 20-day rule is giving them a chance, where they might have backed off before," he said.
The Berkshire Hathaway acquisition also has yielded good news for the former Prudential California Realty office.
"Most of our agents had their best year ever in 2013," the 30-year real estate veteran said. "We have 62 agents and we were No. 25 in profit in our California network last year. Now that we're part of the seventh-largest corporation in America, we're always bragging because we're partners with H.J. Heinz, See's Candies and Enterprise Rent-A-Car -- they're all part of the same company that owns us. It's really enabled us to get more listings, especially in the upper end."