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Time to Dip a Toe in Housing?

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I've said it before, and I'll say it again: In housing, prices lag sales, on the way up and on the way down. Recently we've been getting a lot of bullish news on home sales, with both pending and existing home sales up toward the end of the year and expectations that December will continue that trend.

So why are prices down?

Financing and fear.

Both Zillow and CoreLogic reported home prices down just over 5 percent in November year over year, and the price drops are accelerating month to month (of course this is the slowest season). While Arizona, with all its overbuilding and foreclosures, leads the nation in price declines, some surprising cities led the drop. Chicago home prices were down 6.6 percent, Atlanta down 6.2 percent, Philadelphia off 4 percent, according to CoreLogic. These were not exactly bubble markets, but they are seeing higher foreclosure numbers, and that is likely bringing down prices. It is also becoming more expensive to get a loan, and that extra expense may be coming of selling prices.

So it begs the question if now is the best time to get in?

We know that foreclosure activity has taken a bit of a hiatus as the banks figure out all their procedures and refile a whole lot of paperwork.

The majority of those foreclosures though will come back to the system and hit the market in 2011. Add pent up selling demand, that is, sellers who have kept their homes off the market, waiting for a bottom, and the usual Spring additions, and we're likely to see inventories head far higher in the coming months.

Prices are likely falling again now because the only homes selling are the real bargains.

If enough demand comes back in the Spring, prices could finally hit bottom.

I'm not saying they're going to come surging back with gusto, but they will stabilize.

The decision now is, do I get in and get the really great deal, or do I wait until Spring to see the new inventory and perhaps have a tiny bit of competition? Obviously it's going to depend on your local market.

I do think that despite still serious headwinds in housing, there is beginning to be something of a breeze at our backs.

Questions? Comments? RealtyCheck@cnbc.com And follow me on Twitter @Diana_Olick