Buying Into a Recovery!

By Jim Droz

Key Housing Indicators Most Positive In Two Years, Survey Finds

If you think your local housing market is heating up, you’re probably right.

Just look at the results of the most recent – and most positive – HouseHunt Current Market Conditions national survey in two years and you will find plenty of reasons for consumers to be optimistic.

HouseHunt’s random survey of member-agents, conducted in the fourth quarter of 2009, found the following:

• Affordable pricing is the number one reason given by buyers purchasing homes now. Job and population growth is number two.

• Average time on the market needed from listing to contract is steadily shrinking. Currently, 65% of sellers report that it is taking 60 days or more to sell. A year ago the percentage was 94%.

• First-time buyers are dominating the market for the seventh straight quarter, accounting for 66% of all sales. Repeat and move-up buyers represent 34% of activity. The federal $8,000 and $6,500 first-time home buyer tax credits, extended in December, are expected to continue as strong motivators in the first half of 2010.

• Annual price appreciation gained in the fourth quarter, with 42% reporting gains of zero to 10%. The number of homeowners reporting negative appreciation in the past year dropped from 77% to 62% in the same quarter.

• The ask vs. sale price ratio continues to stabilize across much of the country. Fifty-five percent of sellers say they are getting up to 95% of their asking prices, on average, while 45% say they are receiving 95% or more.

• Also stabilizing is the buyer-seller ratio, with sellers holding a 58% edge. A 50-50 ratio would indicate a more balanced market between supply and demand.

• Sellers are reporting a big gain over a year ago in multiple offers. Currently, 65% say they are getting more than one offer, on average, compared with only 39% in the fourth quarter of 2008.

• Finally, a slow but steady gain is reported in the unsold inventory of existing homes. Currently, 17% of member-agents report a limited supply, up from 6% a year ago. The National Association of Realtors estimates a six and one-half month supply across the country – a steady improvement over the past year.

“Our latest survey results are strong indicators that the national housing recovery is near – and could begin as soon as the second half of this year,” observed Michael Bearden, president and CEO of HouseHunt, Inc. “History tells us that recoveries start house by house and spread neighborhood by neighborhood. Extensions of the federal tax credits to first-time buyers have been positive motivators in the marketplace. Financing, foreclosures, short sales and homeowners who have lost large amounts of equity are still very real problems still to be solved and could stall the recovery. Overall, we’re very optimistic that the worst is behind us.”

Reporting a surge of business in the past 30 to 60 days is Teresa Cline, associate broker for Liz Moore & Associates and exclusive HouseHunt member-agent for Newport News, VA: “We’re in a very strong buyers market throughout our Peninsula communities of Hampton, Poquoson, York County and Newport News. Federal tax credits are available and home prices have moved downward from recent highs. As a result, people who couldn’t buy a house two years ago are able to buy now.”

Cline continued: “Our overall market is active in virtually all price ranges. Lower prices are providing more buying opportunities for both first-time buyers and move-up buyers. With a large military population, financing is readily available through VA and FHA. Prices range from $150,000 to a million dollars. Average price home is $275,000 to $300,000. Most sellers say they are getting 90 to 95% of asking prices”.

Also reporting a pickup in business in the past 30-60 days is Greg Olson of RE/MAX Suburban Realty in Arlington Heights, IL, exclusive HouseHunt member-agent for Schaumburg, IL, in the Chicago metro area. “I’ve been very busy since mid-November, working mostly with first-time buyers wanting to cash in on the federal tax credit before the tax credits expire, and with investors,” Olson said. “I have 28 properties to show this weekend, and that’s a very good sign. I’m finding that there are lots of potential buyers out there even though financing is still difficult to obtain. Best selling prices are in the $175,000 to $225,000 range.”

Karen Taussing of Karen Taussing Realty, exclusive HouseHunt member-agent for Oxnard, CA, and the Channel Islands, describes her marketplace as the “best kept secret” in Southern California. “People just don’t realize that Oxnard is located on the Pacific Ocean and is a beautiful seaside community in which to live. Neither do they realize the good buys available.” Taussing, who works work exclusively with buyers, continued: “I service two very distinctive housing markets. One of multi-million dollar ocean front homes and the other of homes that have hit rock bottom prices and are starting to rebound. Homes priced $200,000 to $300,000 are snapped up immediately.” To attract more home buyers to this area, Taussing said city officials are attempting to re-brand the area as Oxnard Beach or Channel Islands. “Visibility from the 101 (Ventura Freeway) is part of the problem because of some rundown properties along it. However, visitors driving on Pacific Coast Highway see our new marina and some of the best-priced beachfront property available anywhere.”

Scott Carrier of Keller Williams Realty Greater Memphis, exclusive HouseHunt member-agent for Germantown and Collierville, TN, said his business has been booming since the end of December. “We’re getting lots of good quality leads, especially in Collierville. Before that, our overall business was stagnant,” he said. “Fed-Ex, a major employer here, let 500 people go last summer. That caused potential buyers to fear more layoffs. Plus, our relocation business is down about 70%. Financing is difficult to obtain for even normal buyers.” Carrier continued: “Lately, most of our business is coming from first-time buyers trying to qualify for the federal tax credits before they expire again. Our repeat buyers are seeing that they can sell their homes to the first-time buyers and can also take advantage of the higher end properties, which are hurting price-wise.” Carrier said his marketplaces haven’t seen the massive spikes in prices that others have experienced. “We’ve seen a decrease of about nine percent.” He said home sellers are currently averaging 94 to 98% of their asking prices.

HouseHunt’s Quarterly Comparison Chart for U.S.

2008 2009
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
Buyer-Seller Ratio
More Buyers 32% 30% 28% 34% 29% 32% 32% 33%
More Sellers 55% 56% 61% 49% 59% 57% 58% 58%
About Even 13% 14% 11% 17% 12% 11% 10% 09%
Ave. Time  on Market
0-60 Days 10% 12% 08% 06% 12% 21% 22% 35%
Sold in 60 Days Plus 90% 88% 92% 94% 88% 79% 78% 65%
Unsold Inventory
Good Supply 89% 95% 93% 94% 93% 91% 85% 83%
Tight Supple 11% 05% 07% 06% 07% 09% 15% 17%
Annual Price Appreciation
Up 0-5% 20% 12% 12% 13% 05% 16% 14% 26%
Up 05-10% 08% 07% 04% 03% 04% 03% 03% 06%
Up 10% Plus 07% 09% 04% 03% 06% 04% 03% 03%
Unchanged 08% 07% 07% 08% 03% 07% 03% 03%
Negative Apprec. 57% 65% 73% 73% 82% 70% 77% 62%
Buyer Activity
Repeat/Move-up 54% 46% 50% 35% 35% 48% 48% 34%
First-Time Buyers 46% 54% 50% 65% 65% 52% 52% 66%
Ask vs. Sale Price
Less Than 95% 52% 55% 39% 54% 65% 56% 57% 55%
More Than 95% 48% 45% 61% 46% 35% 44% 43% 45%
Multiple Offers
Yes 25% 36% 41% 39% 48% 60% 60% 65%
No 75% 64% 59% 61% 52% 40% 40% 35%

HouseHunt, Inc, is a consumer-oriented Internet firm that provides free information and services to homeowners, home buyers and home sellers in 47 states through its member-agents and through its primary web site, HouseHunt.com.

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