Judging from the national news, you just might think the sky is falling, or at least your home valuation is. But when we stopped to talk to a few experts in the Oak Cliff residential real estate market, we started feeling better.

Curious about what to expect for your home value? Read on and decide for yourself if the bubble is going to impact Oak Cliff:

What impact has the national housing slump had on the Oak Cliff market over the past several months? Are there any measurable signs of decline that you can share with readers?

Kathy Hewitt, Hewitt & Habgood/Keller Williams: Dallas has not felt the slump anywhere near what the rest of our country has experienced, but our newspapers love to have headlines saying how bad the real estate market is, and then, tucked way down in the article, they write that Dallas is only 1 percent down from last year. Buyers don’t feel the sense of urgency to buy because of articles like these. But last year Hewitt & Habgood closed 146 transactions — 100 of these were in Oak Cliff.  Homes sell if they show well and are priced right.  
Robert Kucharski, Kucharski Group/Abio AHK: The housing slump has not affected our inner city markets as much. While there has been little to no increase in value, the upside is there has not been a decline.

Gerald Crow, Judge Fite/Century 21: The national housing slump has affected the consumer only in that their confidence has in some cases caused them to delay taking action to buy or sell. The decline in sales in 2007 versus 2006 in Oak Cliff was a very modest number of less than 7 percent.

Keith Cox, Cox360/Keller Williams: I like to tell people to think globally, but act locally. It is important to know that the national averages and reports of a slumping market do not always impact all areas of the country. Although fewer houses have sold in the North Oak Cliff area this year as opposed to last year, our prices have remained strong. In addition, many statistics showing a decline in the housing market do not take into consideration new construction, which is not always reflected on MLS.

Doug Wingfield, Resource Real Estate Services: Actually, no measurable signs of decrease are showing in the higher end market. Comparing MLS sales over the last three months to the same time frame a year ago, it indicates that homes priced above $150,000 are selling 9 percent higher with days on market remaining about the same.

Diane Sherman, David Griffin & Co: While the overall Dallas or suburban market may be adjusting to recent fluctuations, I don’t sense that this North Oak Cliff area has been adversely affected in any significant way. Our average number of days on market have lengthened just a little within the last several months from 45 to 60, to almost 80-plus now in some cases. On the other hand, it’s normal for our DOM to lengthen during seasonal periods. This recent holiday market of November and December was no exception. We also experience a seasonal slowdown during the hottest months when we reach up into triple digit temperatures.

LeeAnn Derdeyn, Premier Group: As of February, Dallas was the number one market in Texas and either number one or number two in the nation, depending on which criteria you used, according to Steve Blow of the Dallas Morning News. The suburban belt around the metroplex has been affected by the large number of foreclosures. Also suburban new home projects are hard-hit, as builders scramble to try to capture the remaining buyers and have high costs in temporary construction carrying costs. Foreclosures in those areas compete with build jobs. Those factors will continue to affect prices and market conditions, but the same is not true of Dallas’ inner core. The Oak Cliff market is alive and well! While sales as a whole were off in January, that is a normal market condition  — few people move from Thanksgiving through Super Bowl Sunday.  Our Oak Cliff market has begun picking up!

Is the decline impacting all price ranges in Oak Cliff?

Kathy Hewitt, Hewitt & Habgood/Keller Williams: Barely — we have noticed a decline in showings and pendings these past two months, but that is normal for January and February. Then March arrives and wow, here we go again. As for the price ranges, $200,000 to $400,000 is always a strong price range. It used to be $100,000 to $200,000 — but the change is because these homes have appreciated so much in Oak Cliff over the past years. Now it’s hard to find quality homes under $200k. On the upper end of pre-owned homes, we had seven sales over $900,000 in 2007 — our best year yet!

Robert Kucharski, Kucharski Group/ Abio AHK: Days on market has increased in all price points.

Gerald Crow, Judge Fite/Century 21: There is a slight increase in inventory which in turn causes more competition for homes on the market.

Keith Cox, Cox360/Keller Williams: I think the mortgage industry, now going through its own internal correction, has affected price ranges that fall within the Jumbo market, that is, mortgages over $417k. Although these loans have been considered some of the best performing loans, guidelines have really tightened up. We had hoped to see some relief from Fannie Mae with an increase on the conforming loan limits. Fannie Mae just released an increase in the conforming loan limits in many parts of the country; however, Texas was not included. This means that interest rates for Jumbo loans will continue to be at a premium. . . still, 6 percent is not bad at all. It is the loan programs that are scarce, especially for self-employed and stated income programs.

Doug Wingfield, Resource Real Estate Services:  Homes priced under $150,000 seem to be selling for 13 percent less this year compared to last year, with days on market being just slightly higher.

LeeAnn Derdeyn, Premier Group: Again, there is no decline in Oak Cliff, but any slight effect is because of the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Sub-prime Lenders were making ridiculously risky loans to non-credit worthy buyers. Now that the impact of their folly is evident, the subsequent tightening of credit criteria for qualification has hurt those buyers who might have a blip or two on their record, but are a good risk and would increase their household wealth by the benefits of homeownership vs. renting. The primary price range that seems to be impacted is the lower range — under $140,000. Those buyers are generally more dependent on a slightly more generous qualification package. It may also be that we will see some effect in the condo/townhome market in Oak Cliff as those buyers are often more dependent on loans with low down payments, and closing costs rolled in, as are first-time buyers.

Does Oak Cliff appear to be any more insulated than the rest of the real estate market in Dallas?

Kathy Hewitt, Hewitt & Habgood/Keller Williams: Absolutely — older neighborhoods do not have to compete with the builder who has numerous homes still available in the same subdivision or with other new homes just like yours a few blocks away.
Robert Kucharski, Kucharski Group/ Abio AHK: Yes, because we are a unique area.

Gerald Crow, Judge Fite/Century 21: Oak Cliff is not unlike other market places in the DFW area, with inventory up slightly and a slight decline in sales units for the year ending December 2007.

Keith Cox, Cox360/Keller Williams: No markets are completely immune to economic conditions; however, North Oak Cliff remains strong, with some price ranges still setting records.

Doug Wingfield, Resource Real Estate Services:  As always, there are “pocket neighborhoods” that sell better in every market. Oak Cliff does have the advantage of being in the positive press from the Trinity River Project, which is creating a buzz about the area.

LeeAnn Derdeyn, Premier Group: Even in the real-estate debacle of the ‘80s, Oak Cliff didn’t suffer as much percentage-wise as other neighborhoods in Dallas.  Oak Cliff hasn’t historically attracted as much speculation as some other markets, and doesn’t have big-box builders with vast McMansion projects.  Oak Cliff tends to attract a more stable population of white- and blue-collar workers whose job situations are not fragilely dependent on economic winds of whim.

What are your recommendations to people that are looking to buy in Oak Cliff in the next six months?

Kathy Hewitt, Hewitt & Habgood/Keller Williams: BUY NOW. There are so many areas with wonderful homes — homes that either are in need of a renovation, or ones that are ready for you to move in. The prices continue to rise, so don’t wait. Oak Cliff is such a wonderful place to live, and the interest rates are so unbelievably low right now. I’m actually thinking of refinancing my home that I just bought a year ago.

Robert Kucharski, Kucharski Group/ Abio AHK: It is a good time to purchase, because values will be increasing with the many new and exciting developments in and around Oak Cliff.

Gerald Crow, Judge Fite/Century 21: Be prepared, talk to a lender at your earliest opportunity and determine what you can afford. The rates on loans are still at a record low, however the lenders are very carefully following new guidelines.

Keith Cox, Cox360/Keller Williams: Take some time to work with a lender and ensure your credit is cleaned up, as credit scores are more and more becoming the deciding factor for approval. Get to know the market and understand market conditions.

Doug Wingfield, Resource Real Estate Services:  Buy now! Interest rates are historically low and there is a fantastic selection of homes on the market in all the various price ranges, styles and areas.

LeeAnn Derdeyn, Premier Group: Don’t be the one buyer setting the new benchmark high price per square foot for 2008, unless you’re sure that you’re buying a product that in uniquely positioned to always be the highest and best house in that price range.

What are your recommendations to people that are looking to sell in Oak Cliff in the next six months?

Kathy Hewitt, Hewitt & Habgood/Keller Williams: Pay attention to the details. Look at your home as though you are a discriminating buyer. Paint is cheap, so paint! Also, add landscaping. We tend to focus on the house (which is good, of course) but landscaping is a huge plus to any home. Drive the neighborhoods and pay attention to the front yards. You’ll begin to notice those with the lush landscaping, the trees, the lighting, etc. If you don’t have trees in your front yard, plant them now. A few years ago, I planted numerous trees in my previous home on Bison Trail and they are gorgeous now. I truly believe the buyers of my home appreciated the front yard as much as they loved the inside.

Robert Kucharski, Kucharski Group/ Abio AHK: Be patient, days on market have increased. Now with the recent lowering of interest rates, more and more buyers are showing a new energy to the market.

Gerald Crow, Judge Fite/Century 21: First, the home must be in very good condition. Second, the home must be priced competitively based upon sales closed in the last six months of similar type of homes and, third, if the location or condition is less than perfect, there must be adjustment in price to reflect those issues.

Keith Cox, Cox360/Keller Williams: It is all about supply and demand. There is definitely a demand for housing in most price ranges. We are still seeing records and multiple offers. Spend some time in prepping your house for the market because buyers are expecting to do less work. We are all working a little harder these days, and I see most buyers wanting to move right in without having to do work.

Doug Wingfield, Resource Real Estate Services:  Price your home right! Make sure it is in “show” condition: staged, cleaned, de-personalized, repaired and has attractive curb appeal. First impressions are the lasting impression.

Diane Sherman, David Griffin & Co: I predict we will have a strong spring market based on the increased activity here of late. February brought out a good number ofbuyers in our market and many of them are pursuing the properties that have caught their eye. If the spring season does prove to be strong, we will soon see the prospective buyers. They will be the ones driving around slowly on the nicest weekend days admiring our pretty streets. They will be doing that “slow blink” as a friend of mine used to say.

One of my recent listings in Winnetka Heights had 20 showings in the first 16 days and three offers before going under contract.

LeeAnn Derdeyn, Premier Group: Be realistic!  If your house is truly the best, price it as such  — buyers do recognize quality.  If your house is above-average and you really want to sell, price it in the middle  — give buyers a reason to chose your house from among the other above-average homes available to them.

Any other comments or observations on the state of the Oak Cliff market?

Kathy Hewitt, Hewitt & Habgood/Keller Williams: We are blessed since Oak Cliff buyers and sellers love Oak Cliff. Too many times we talk with folks who recently moved to Dallas and their agent never introduced them to Oak Cliff. How sad. We are constantly educating north Dallas realtors about Oak Cliff, and have even hired buses to tour our neighborhoods and introduce them to the different areas, price ranges, grocery stores, etc. We still deal with the “wall” between Dallas and Oak Cliff but hopefully all realtors will soon realize the treasure we have on this side of the river.

Robert Kucharski, Kucharski Group/ Abio AHK: After living here since 1985, I think our neighborhood is the best it has ever been. The neighborhood as a whole has taken a strong interest in our community, which is evident in the support of all the new business and development in the area.

Gerald Crow, Judge Fite/Century 21: Overall, the Oak Cliff and larger DFW markets still have many reasons to be optimistic. Low interest rates, low unemployment and low cost of living make this area very appealing compared to other parts of the country.

Doug Wingfield, Resource Real Estate Services:  The Trinity River Project has created a renewed interest in Oak Cliff and has drawn people here. Our unique architectural styles, hills and trees as well as the quaintness of our area are also draws. Oak Cliff has a place for everyone — from the avant-garde to the family-friendly. I am excited about the diversity of Oak Cliff and the desire of people to live here. I believe in the Oak Cliff real estate market and feel it will do fine!

LeeAnn Derdeyn, Premier Group: If you read beyond the headline of Steve Blow’s column in the Dallas Morning News, you’ll find he is generally optimistic. He doesn’t feel there’s any price bubble in the metroplex, he states unequivocally that our average increase city-wide has been  about 5 percent over the last three years. Also, interest rates are extremely low, we have substantial job growth, and oil and gas are thriving. The Real Estate Center at Texas A&M is even more optimistic! They foresee growth in our market! In other words, having lived through the real estate crisis of the ‘80s, we are not in the position that we were then.