It’s a buyer’s market

REGION – If you're in the market for a house, now's a good time to be a buyer.

"2006 continues to be a strong buyer's market," says Andrea Galloup, with Real Estate One.

A buyer's market is a listing inventory in excess of six months.

"In the $500,000-plus price ranges, we have enough inventory already on the market to last four years," she said.

"Our supply is 30 percent higher than ever before, however, sales remain steady," added Bob Brick, broker/owner of Re/Max Bayshore Properties. "The price of property hasn't gone down."

In fact, the $300,000-plus home is getting more showings than last year at this time, and people are looking at waterfront earlier, according to Debra Hall with Century 21 Pearson-Cook.

"I'm not certain if our mild weather has played a part in it or not, but first-time buyers and second-home buyers are shopping about one month earlier than last year," she said. "The same can be said for folks putting their homes on the market."

So what about that housing 'bubble'?

"With all the nationwide hysteria about the housing 'bubble' bursting, there has to be a bubble to burst," said Judith Lindenau, executive vice president of Traverse Area Association of Realtors. "Our market here has been good for the last several years, but we have not seen the inflated home prices that many metropolitan areas in other parts of the country have seen. We also are a healthy market due to second home buyers, who are generally more economically secure than buyers in many downstate areas of Michigan."

For the first quarter of this year, the sales ratio for all five area counties was 20 percent. In first quarter of '05, it was 32 percent.

"There are a lot more listings this year over last," Lindenau says. "Buyers remain the same, but inventory increases dramatically, which means a drop in sales ratio."

Days on the market remains steady at an average of 175 days. That means on average, a home will be listed for sale for nearly six months before it sells (if it sells).

The average sales price has risen from $195,351 last year (first quarter statistics for five-county area) to $205,298 this year.

"I think the biggest trend I'm exposed to," said Hall, who sold $11 million last year, "is buyers who want to live in the downtown area so they can walk to everything… a lot more interest in condo living as well."

Because so much information is available to buyers, they tend to have the upper hand in the negotiation, added Galloup, who sold $5.7 million last year.

"One trend we're seeing this year is low initial offers. Another trend is a slower decision-making process. Again, because there is so much inventory on the market, buyers are wanting to see more homes for comparisons." BN