The Exchange The Buyer’s Market in Housing Is Over

By Qiong (June) Zhang78 Comments

You don’t usually find clearance sales on real estate. But the last two years are beginning to look like the deal of a lifetime for anybody who bought a home.

That dynamic may now be changing as home prices surge by double-digits, interest rates rise and the whole housing bust recedes into the past. The latest sign that the buyer’s market is ending is a convincing improvement in foreclosures. Sales of foreclosed homes now account for about 12% of home sales. That’s down from 17% a year ago and 37% in 2009, the low point of the housing bust.

With fewer foreclosures, there’s less of a discount on distressed homes, and firmer prices overall. In 2009, foreclosed homes sold for about 25% less than their estimated value. Today, they sell for about 8% less than their estimated value. Prices bottomed out in the first half of 2012 and are now rising by about 12% year over year.

There’s some evidence now that trade-up buyers are finally, well, trading up. Sales of lower-priced entry-level homes that might typically appeal to first-time buyers are falling, possibly because new buyers are still struggling to get credit. But sales of higher-priced homes that would typically appeal to second- or third-time buyers are rising.

This comes at the same time that 30-year mortgage rates have spiked from about 3.5% in April to more than 4.5% now. The median sales price of a home, around $214,000, is now high enough for the typical seller to turn a small profit on the sale, which comes in handy for families that are turning around and buying another house.

That’s why the end of the buyer’s market isn’t the end of the housing recovery. Rising prices ought to lure more sellers to put their homes up for sale, increasing the supply of homes and putting a check on rising prices.


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