During the Great Recession, the housing market crashed nationally for the first time in U.S. history. There had certainly been local and even regional housing downturns in the past, but it was the first time home prices fell nationwide.
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Now, as the recovery moves forward, the national market is turning local again, with more clear distinctions between "buyers" and "sellers" markets.
A market's particular leaning isn't necessarily based on where prices are rising most. Home prices are still stronger nationally than they were a year ago, according to various surveys, although the gains are shrinking. A market is a buyers or sellers one depending on how long it takes to sell a home, whether price cuts occur or whether homes sell above asking, according to a new report from Zillow, which ranked some of the top markets for both.
"Real estate has always been local, but as we continue to put the housing recession further in the rear view mirror, the largely uniform performance of local markets is also fading," said Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries. "We now have several different types of markets emerging, including markets that are still muddling along the bottom; markets that shot up immediately after the recession ended and are now cooling quickly; and markets that are still very hot."
Top sellers' markets today are largely in the West, where inventories are low and demand and jobs are strong. Dallas also made a strong showing for sellers. Sellers in these markets have the most negotiating power, and final sale prices generally come in at or above asking.
For buyers looking to hold the reigns, the Northeast and Midwest are the best markets. Pricing power in cities like Cleveland, Providence and Chicago is weaker, as there is still considerable distress in these markets. Investors did not swoop in and buy up foreclosures in these markets in the same way they did in the West; therefore there is more inventory at lower price points.
"Each of these environments presents unique challenges and opportunities for buyers and sellers, and what works in one area won't necessarily work in another," Humphries said.
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The number of homes across the nation has been rising, up over 20 percent year-over-year in August, according to Zillow. Listings tend to fall off, however, in the colder months, and that could cause some of these markets to shift from buyers to sellers. A lot depends on the home builders, who are still operating at rates well below both historical norms and potential demand. They are not expected to ramp up production dramatically this year, which will keep some markets firmly in the seller's power.