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House Hunters Kicking Off Shopping Season Early

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The winter months are often seen as a down time for the housing market as sellers and buyers tend to wait until the spring for the new year’s activity to begin in earnest, but given how strong the real estate industry has been in general over the last year, it seems many were unwilling to wait.

February saw significant upticks in a number of positive signs for housing in general, including growing prices, increasing inventory and homes spending fewer days on the market overall, according to the latest monthly data from Move, Inc. For instance, the number of homes listed on the market in February rose 1.15 percent from January (though it was down 15.97 percent on a year-over-year basis, in keeping with trends seen during the last 24 months) to a total of more than 1.49 million properties for sale.

Further, the median amount of time homes spent on the market fell to just 98 days in the month, down 9.26 percent from January, and 11.71 percent annually, the report said. And sellers were also getting higher values for their homes in addition to the faster turnarounds, with prices rising 1.01 percent year-over-year to an average national value of $189,900. That was also up 1.55 percent from January.

“As we enter the busiest time of the year for home buyers and sellers, our latest housing trend data shows just how competitive the market is with a significant national housing recovery well underway,” said Steve Berkowitz, CEO of Move, Inc. “Looking ahead, we can expect the amount of inventory to increase this spring along with higher list prices as sellers become more comfortable with the market conditions.”

However, while those numbers are generally improving overall, on a regional level there are still significant disparities, the report said. The metropolitan areas in California, for instance, saw inventories decline by an average of 48 percent annually, and the number of days spent on the market tumbled to just 31, down 53 percent from a year prior.

Experts say improvements in the housing market will continue at least through the end of this year, and potentially beyond, as the Federal Reserve Board continues to buy bonds in an effort to keep interest rates depressed. It’s believed that the affordability granted by these low rates is very attractive to prospective buyers.

Image: Comstock

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