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Last week, the National Association of Realtors reported that sales of existing homes rose 5.5 percent between August and September, the largest increase in more than five years. Who might relish this news? Real estate agents twiddling their thumbs at open houses and praying someone walks through the doors. So, on Sunday, I decided to call a few of them, and see how they were doing at their properties, and more importantly, how they were feeling in general about the market:

4706 Lincoln Ave, Beltsville MD

Original Listing Price: $269,900 (Oct. 17, 2008)
CurrentListing Price: Same
Year built: 1972
Description: Four bedrooms, two bathrooms
Agent: Mike McDermitt of Llewellyn Realtors

When was the last time you sold a house? Friday. “The market’s improving!” McDermitt says, a tad gleefully. After seven days on the market, 4706 Lincoln Ave. went under contract. McDermitt’s secret: Spruce up the place, then price it just above the cost of a short sale (which involves tedious dealings with banks). Real estate agents don’t want to have to wait around to see if a sale will go through, he says. How many people do you expect to show up today? Not applicable. Open house was canceled. McDermitt was reached by phone while rockfishing in the Annapolis area. Perhaps inspired by the bay setting, he decided to go on a water-influenced tangent: “It used to be, you sell a starter home, it creates a ripple effect, like in the pond-you throw the pebble in there, ripple, ripple, ripple,” McDermitt says. Yes, go on… “So, once you sell the starter home-which is like $250,000, in this market-well that [seller] goes and buys a $350,000 home, and those people in the $350,000 home buy a $400,000 or $500,000 home. Unfortunately now, you sell that first house, and guess who owns it? People who are doing short sale or foreclosure, and they’re going to a rental!” When do you expect to see prices turn around? Probably spring 2010. “But, I’m just happy to see movement in the market. Once we remove all these short sales, then you’ll see some increase.”