Prices on residential properties rose in over half of U.S. metropolitan areas in the first quarter of 2012 as the single family market continued to show signs of stabilizing after nearly six years of price declines. The median price for an existing, or previously owned, home rose in 74 of the 146 markets tracked by the National Association of Realtors during the January-to-March period. The trade group, issued its report today, and said the latest trend represented a significant change from the fourth quarter, when home price rose in just 29 metropolitan areas.
This news arrives during what many real-estate agents say is shaping up to be the strongest spring selling season in several years as home buyers conclude that prices are at or near a bottom. That has pulled bargain hunters to get off the fence and into the market. The biggest year-over-year price gain of 28.1% was seen in Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla. Other cities that saw significant price improvements: Grand Rapids, Mich. was up 19%, Tampa climbed 16.1%, while the Sarasota gained 11.1%. Areas showing the biggest price declines were Kingston, N.Y. , down 22%; Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn., down 18% and Mobile, Ala., down 14.7%. Hard-hit Las Vegas declined 4.8%.
Still, the Realtors are confident the market is healing. In the first quarter, sales of existing homes, which include condos, climbed 5.3% from the prior year to a seasonally adjusted 4.57 million. Perhaps, more important, the increasing demand has left fewer homes available. At the end of the first quarter, there were 2.37 million homes for sale, down 22% from a year ago, and well below the record 4.04 million seen about five years ago. Agents say there aren’t enough homes to meet demand in some markets including Orange County, Calif., and Phoenix.
“We now have broad shortages of lower priced homes in much of the country,” said Lawrence Yun, the NAR’s chief economist.
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