“All of a sudden, the market has shifted significantly,” Dwayne Hicks, president-elect of the West Metro Board of Realtors, said Wednesday. “The home inventory is down dramatically and a lot of people are bidding on homes.”
His observations reflect a report issued Tuesday by the National Association of Realtors, which showed existing home sales in the U.S. rose 9.2 percent last year, compared with 2011.
“Housing is finally contributing to the economy’s recovery,” Mark Zandi, Moody’s Analytics chief economist, is quoted in a USA Today article. “It’s no longer the drag it’s been since the housing bust began in 2006 and housing’s positive influence will grow more this year.”
Hicks said that the once large inventory of foreclosed homes is getting sold out fast and that’s driving prices up.
“The seller, often a bank or the federal government, doesn’t have to be negotiating because they’re getting multiple offers,” he said.
He said the rising home prices are helping homeowners who have been “underwater” for some time and making it more practical now for them to put their homes on the market.
“More homeowners are in a place to realize some equity now,” Hicks said. “We’ve had a pendulum shift, going from a buyer’s market to one where sellers often have three or four offers on the table.”
He said the housing market is definitely trying to recover, although at a slower rate than after past recessions.
“What we had years ago in the bull market was a spike, with artificially inflated prices,” Hicks said. “The kind of growth we’re seeing now is steady and we’re certainly optimistic.”
Hicks said the housing recovery is a major discussion topic when local real estate people meet and he’s hearing the same optimistic reports online from contacts he has across the country
He said new home sales are still “sketchy,” because banks aren’t making loans.
Chris Collier, executive officer of Westside Home Builders Association, which represents builders in Carroll, Douglas and Haralson counties, said signs are positive and he’s hopeful for a recovery in new housing starts soon.
“We’re seeing home inventories of one month or less now, and as a result, demand should drive home starts up this spring,” Collier said. “Unfortunately, there’s a need for local financing for small builders, which is still not available. What we’re seeing is big builders coming in because they don’t have to go to the bank to get money.”
He said the areas showing the most positive signs are Coweta County and the North Atlanta area, between I-75 and I-85, outside the I-285 perimeter.
The USA Today article noted that new home sales are especially important to the economy because buyers spend money on several other items, such as home furnishings, appliances and landscaping.