Winter not a winner for WV realtors - WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville

Winter not a winner for WV realtors

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Months of heavy snowfall, an environmental emergency and questions about government policy have contributed to the winter doldrums for West Virginia's real estate market. Realtors in the region have to be relieved that "spring has sprung." 

Raymond Joseph, executive vice president of the West Virginia Association of Realtors, describes the winter of 2013-14 as an "interesting quandary," complicated by the Jan. 9 chemical leak from Freedom Industries into the Kanawha Valley's water supply through West Virginia American Water's intake system.

And folks tend not to be in the house shopping mood with six inches of snow on the ground.

"Along with the chemical leak, the real estate industry faced one of the most severe and difficult winters that we've had for a long time in West Virginia," he said. "Even without the chemical leak, it would have been a rough first quarter for West Virginia real estate."

Joseph says the industry should rebound this spring.

"We're not seeing folks leaving the area en masse, but in the early stages (following the leak) there were people out there who were looking to sell their homes and to move somewhere else that was commutable, in their minds. I don't think those numbers are significant in terms of the market."

The Kanawha Valley remains one of the state's most viable real estate markets, according to Joseph.

"There was some short-term impact, but in terms of the real estate market, the impact is not going to be a long-term impact," he said. "It recovered nicely and it's still a good, strong market."

On the positive side, Joseph says West Virginians banded together during the emergency. He noted the real estate boards in the Parkersburg, Morgantown, Beckley and Lewisburg areas were among those who donated bottled water and other essentials. 

Realtors also have been coping with changes in the nation's flood insurance program for properties situated within flood zones. President Barack Obama signed the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014 on March 21, a modification of a reform of legislation enacted in 2012. 

Premiums under the National Flood Insurance Program could increase no more than 18 percent annually through a compromise approved by Congress and President Obama. Joseph says the full impact of the act will not be known until policies are developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).