Housing market starting to recover

If you're looking to buy or sell a home, the housing market is finally starting to bounce back. Prices are up, and buyers are bidding. But is it the best time to jump in? Here's what local experts have to say.

When Pam Ryan and her husband moved here from Rhode Island, they thought the market was still soft and they could bid low on houses. They made offers on four, and lost each one.

"We had no idea that the market in Virginia was rapidly coming back, that offers are made literally within one percent of asking price," said Ryan.

So when RE/MAX realtor Dara Friedlander showed Ryan a house she wanted, Ryan upped her offer and won.

Said Friedlander, "If you see the right house that you want, you've got to get out and get it."

Friedlander says as a realtor, she's seeing the market come back. She showed us statistics from RE Stats Inc. It shows that the median sale price for a home in Central Virginia is up 4% from this time last year, and the average number of days homes sit on the market here is down from 38 to 26.

"As things are kind of leveling out going into the summer, we're seeing it turn a little into a sellers market," Friedlander explained.

The Virginia Association of Realtors just released a survey by the Federal Reserve that echoes those trends. And analysis by the Virginia Center for Housing Research shows that statewide, median home sale prices are up 19% from two years ago.

Said Stacey Ricks with the Virginia Association of Realtors, "Median sales prices are up, foot traffic is way up, and one thing that we found is that first time home buyers are really the big consumers that are hitting the market right now."

But there are two challenges. The inventory, or number of homes for sale, is down right now, and lending, according to the Fed survey, is still tight.

Said Ricks, "It's still tough. The underwriting standards are still tough."

Another sign of recovery in the housing market is being seen in the lumber industry. Kempsville Building Materials just took over the former Carter Lumber store in Ashland.

With locations already in Newport News and Chesapeake, Kempsville has added 9 full-time positions to its new Ashland store, expecting more builders to buy their lumber for home construction.

Explained Greg Harrell, Regional Sales Manager for Kempsville Building Materials, "We're not using the word 'recovery.' 'Guarded optimism' is a better word. There are some signs that economic indicators that show some turnaround in the industry.

So if you've been waiting to sell your home, this could be your year if you bought it before the housing bubble that inflated home prices.

Said Ricks, "If you bought in 2005 and before, you're doing great right now. Even if you, for a while, felt like you were underwater, in all honestly you probably have plateaued."

And Ryan recommends buyers get pre-approved and ready to compete for the house they want. "If you see something you like and you have an opportunity, you really should take advantage of it."