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The Bright(er) Side

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There’s no sugarcoating the fact that 2009 was a challenging year for everyone—and that includes affluent Main Liners. A few months back, just in time for the holidays, the Philadelphia Inquirer delivered the bleak news that unemployment among local professionals—from pharmaceutical reps and marketing executives to investment bankers and CEOs—had risen 143 percent over the last two years. The faces behind the statistics began appearing at an increasing number of support groups and networking events around the area. No one, it seems, has been immune—and certainly not those with careers in real estate.

It behooves any realtor to paint the brightest possible picture of the market. Yet most will concede (or risk coming off as delusional) that 2009 wasn’t the rosiest of years. Here at Main Line Today, our publisher and editor know that firsthand. They’ve both endured multiple showings and spent money on home stagings and renovations, only to field embarrassingly low offers or promises of offers that never come. It’s a buyer’s market out there—and buyers, for the most part, are taking their sweet time.

But homes are still selling on the Main Line. The market may have slowed down, but it’s still moving along. Take the Wayne home featured on this month’s cover. Berwyn’s David Semerjian Builders took it on as a spec project—and it sold within 45 days of completion for more than $2 million. “It was the highest selling home in Radnor Township in almost two years,” says Lisa Semerjian, David’s wife and a realtor with Long & Foster in Devon.

Another luxury homebuilder who’s faring well is C.F. Holloway in Wayne. Profiled in this month’s “What’s Selling Now” cover story, Cas Holloway took a break from building multimillion-dollar homes that were his specialty for nearly 10 years, opting instead for luxury condominiums in downtown Wayne. Wise move. His first project sold out, and he’s currently working on a high-end townhouse project nearby. Set for completion this June, it’s more than half-sold. “Cas picked a niche in the market,” says local realtor Lavinia Smerconish. “He identified a real need, filled it with something of true value, and priced it properly.”

An agent with Prudential Fox & Roach in Bryn Mawr, Smerconish is also featured in this month’s cover story. She explains that the local market has “definitely taken a significant correction.”

“We’re climbing our way out of a recession, but there probably has never been a better time to buy,” she says. “The values out there are tremendous.”

Almost daily, Smerconish finds herself explaining to shell-shocked sellers and overly ambitious buyers that the national horror stories don’t necessarily apply here—that the Main Line is stable compared to other areas, where foreclosures are rampant, people are walking away from their mortgages, supply far outstrips demand and speculators are cashing in. People want to raise their families here, says Smerconish.

And that won’t change.
 

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