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Homeowners find a buyer's market

To many Hernando residents, their homes up North were shelters not only from the elements but also from financial uncertainty. Their homesteads were investments that grew in value year after year, decade after decade. Such is not always the case in Hernando, real estate experts say, and the effect can be sobering when the transplants decide it is time to leave.

"When they try to sell their home . . . and you tell them exactly what it is worth, it's earth-shattering to them," said Joan Danforth, one of the owners of Century 21 David Sturgill Inc. in Spring Hill.

The resale values of Spring Hill homes always have suffered because of the bountiful supply of new homes available to would-be buyers.

But the good news, lenders and real estate agents say, is that the resale market in the county appears to be picking up. Figures from the Hernando County Board of Realtors show a slight increase in the number of home resales in 1989 compared with the year before.

While the value of residential land keeps rising, the value of the

buildings on them has not. That has meant that sellers have had to be content with modest expectations, said H.M. Shirley, president of Barnett Bank of Hernando.

"More than likely they are getting more than what they paid five, six years ago," he said. "Houses (for sale) that were bought a year or two years ago, they are at best breaking even."

Selling a house in the Hernando market requires adapting to conditions that may not have been present in other areas, according to Kevin McGeehan of Coldwell Banker McGeehan & Sons Inc. "I think people who have been realistic in their pricing have gotten what they're looking for (and that) is what it comes down to," McGeehan said.

The number of new single-family homes being built in the county declined in 1989 for the second straight year. Danforth and others said they thought that was reflected in the gains in the resale market.

Spring Hill's reputation as a retirement haven and the transient nature of Florida in general make for a fast-changing real-estate market, Danforth said.

"People come down here and within a year, or even six months, they are ready to move," he said.

Perhaps one partner in a marriage dies, leaving the surviving spouse alone with a home in a new state. Or perhaps a couple finds that retiring to Spring Hill isn't what they expected, and they don't give themselves enough time to adjust to their new community.

Whatever the reason, Danforth said, some people are always selling their homes almost before emptying the boxes from their last move.

"If they break even, they are very fortunate," Danforth said. "In most cases, they do not."

Some of the best buys in Spring Hill are of homes built about 20 years ago, she said. "They are an excellent value. You can get three-bedroom, two-bath homes for under $60,000," Danforth said.

But she said buyers often ignore the older homes because they don't offer the features found on newer or custom-built houses.