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Spring fever is encouraging property investors in US

Some real estate agents in Washington DC are reporting an upswing in inquiries and sales and the industry is buzzing with a new optimism. Other agents are writing business plans and saying that they are running their businesses in a more work like manner and aiming to offer excellent customer service.

They claim that the official statistics lag behind the current market and although properties are taking longer to sell, 112 days instead of 92 days a year ago, real estate is selling.

In Washington DC preliminary March figures show the volume of pending sales is up 11% from last March and many agents say they are even dealing with bidding wars again. Kevin McDuffie of Mortensen said its Dupont Circle office dealt with 12 multiple offer situations last week.

Property that is selling is doing so at reasonable prices and agents say that vendors still have to pitch it at a reasonable asking price.

'It's definitely different now. People are out seriously looking, they're not just curious,' said Chuck Ruoff, an agent in Coldwell Banker's Georgetown office.

According to Joseph Himali, a self-employed broker who presides over the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors, said he thinks both the economic crisis and the federal government are responsible for the turnaround.

'The low, low end of the market is red ho. In Prince William and upper Montgomery counties, you're starting to see them clear inventory just as quickly as they come on the market,' he explained.

The preliminary numbers appear to bear that out. Compared to the same time last year, pending sales were up 47% in Fairfax County in March and 32% in Montgomery County, according to Fred Kendrick, of Sotheby's International Realty.

'Buyers aren't just looking at foreclosures anymore. They're actually looking at real property,' said Mary Jane Molikof at W.C. & A.N. Miller.

Last summer she regularly fielded calls asking if her listing was a foreclosure. When the answer was no, the line would go dead. Now, with the government offering incentives to lure buyers, even fully priced property is selling again, as long as it is in good condition and priced fairly.

But this new excitement is unlikely to spread to the upper markets because of $729,750 cap on loans from the Federal Housing Administration, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, agents point out.