Important signs of improvement in the 2012 real estate market continue to emerge as the year progresses. While the numbers vary from location to location, according to the latest report from the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), existing-home sales rose 3.4 percent in April and remain above a year ago. At the same time, home prices continued to rise. These improvements in sales and prices were broad based across all regions.
Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, increased 3.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.62 million in April; this is 10 percent higher than the 4.20 million-unit level in April 2011.
According to the chief economist at NAR, Lawrence Yun, the latest numbers are a clear sign that a real estate-market recovery is underway. What’s more, this recovery is not just being sparked by investors who plan to rent for profit, but by individual buyers who intend to call the house they buy home.
Yun also reports that, “The general downtrend in both listed and shadow inventory has shifted from a buyers’ market to one that is much more balanced, but in some areas it has become a seller’s market.”
This decreasing inventory of foreclosed property is helping home values stabilize and increase in some areas. We are even beginning to see multiple offers and escalating price conditions in highly desirable areas. According to NAR, the national median existing-home price for all housing types jumped 10.1 percent in April from a year ago, following a 3.1 percent increase in March. This marks the first back-to-back price increase since June and July of 2010—and even then, the gains were less than one percent.
To take full advantage of this turning point in the real estate market, prospective homebuyers should take the following steps:
- Look into financing early on in the search process. Lending conditions are still tight, so talk to a professional real estate agent who can provide advice on increasing your credit score before making an offer on a home.
- Narrow down the areas/neighborhoods in which you’re most interested. Work with an agent who’s experienced in these communities and can provide in-depth details on schools, culture, commutes, activities, etc.
- Search online to focus in on the homes you’re most interested in. This will shorten the time spent with your agent visiting properties and open houses.
- Rely on a credible agent to guide you in making the best offer. Your bid on the home will be greatly influenced by hyper-local conditions. An experienced agent will know important details such as whether or not there is competition for the home you’re interested in, or if the sellers are in a hurry to sell. These details can make or break your offer.