For Housing Rebound, Once Again It's Wait Until Next Year
"I think we are headed in the right direction for next year on inventory and prices," says Walters.
For all the tumult and uncertainty, one thing hasn't changed about the real estate market. Location is key, and parts of the country are having a better 2011 than 2010. (See prices for top towns in various metro markets.)
After taking their house off the market last spring, Maria and Michael Treiber of Morris Township, New Jersey sold their three-bedroom, split-level this February after prices had finally climbed to an acceptable level.
"It was much better for us," says Treiber, a local policeman who plans to rent while looking for another home. "There weren't that many homes on the market this time, so that helped."
Some areas are even seeing an uptick in new construction.
"There's some new construction, and some people are buying homes," Martinelli says of Norman, Okla. "They're downsizing, but at least there's some activity. It's not as bad as it was last year."
Wall Street bonuses are moving some buyers and renters back to the high-end Hamptons section of Long Island, N.Y.
"Fundamentals are improving if not significantly," says Rosenbaum. "People still need to move, whether for a job or bigger home."
And longtime depressed areas are also seeing daylight.
"Areas like Chicago, Detroit, Las Vegas that have a lot of foreclosures are on an upswing with interest in home buying," says Reynolds. "That interest is better than a year ago."
Above all, there's an acceptance of the new normal in housing, says Jim Gillespie, CEO of real estate firm Caldwell Banker.
"Happiness is a new base, but we are going up," Gillespie says. "At the worst, things will stay the same; at best, we'll have a slow recovery. I don't think Americans have lost their love of owning a home. We're just obviously going through a tough time."