I have to say that I believe that the recent increase in activity has some of both elements in it. As I watch the statistics in the little five township market that I track on a weekly basis, I've certainly seen the activity in owner-occupied homes pick up since May. From January through April the sale of foreclosed homes made up 70% of the sold market in that area. In May that dropped to 61% and in June is now at 60% and may go lower before the month is out. And I've seen homes in the $300 to 500K range selling for the first time in months in that market. Good signs that more than just increased seasonal activity is taking place. The normal, move-up buyers are creeping back into the market.
We still have lots and lots of fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) in the local market, due mainly to the automotive bankruptcies and the ripple affect that is reverberating through the supplier base now. That is going to take most of the rest of this year to play out. However, the lower end of the market is starting to tighten up, with most of the really cheap foreclosed house swept up by investors or first-time buyers. It's hard to find many houses worth looking at in the $40-80K range anymore, at least out this far; and those that are still out there are in fairly sad shape. So the focus is turning to the $100-200K range, within which you can find foreclosed homes that 2-3 years ago were $250-350K - nice houses, many in fairly good condition.
And there are good deals on leases to be found everywhere, too; as people who can't sell for what the market will bear try to get out from under most or all of their monthly nut. The ironic twist is that most of the people who are looking to lease right now are doing so because they just lost a house to foreclosure and need to rebuild their credit before buying again. So I'm showing lots of lease houses. On most lease deals the agents involved split one months rent, which they then must split with their brokers and pay other fees. On most leases that means a "payday" of a couple of hundred dollars, but, hey, it's something and may pay one bill.
So, I'm busy, busy, bust. I'm working harder than ever, making less than ever, but having as much fun as ever. The people part of the job - meeting and working for some great clients - is what keeps me going in the business. If I was in it just for the money, I'd go get a job for Walmart or Home Depot. As for the meaning of it all in the larger context of the overall market, I certainly think (maybe hope is more accurate) that the pickup in activity is a precursor to a larger and more permanent market turnaround. I'll keep watching and let you know for sure in a couple of months.