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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Things to do and places to go...


Whether or not you’ll be traveling out-of-town over Spring Break, go to my Web site – www.movetomilford.com and check out all of the fun things there will be to do around the Huron Valley area over the next few weeks. You can start with The Great Egg Hunt out at Kensington Metropark  this week and go from there. Actually you could end up back at Kensington quite often, since they have lots of upcoming events and many of their animals will be having spring babies or litters.

For the wee ones there’s a whole series of events coming up at Max & Izzy’s in Downtown Milford. For the older kids there’s the shoot ‘em up, blow ‘em up movie GI Joe Revenge showing at the Milford Cinema.

With warmer weather finally arriving getting outdoors will be high on the list. Take the kids to Central Park to play on the play structures or get really adventuresome and go rent a canoe and get out on the river. Kensington will be hosting all sorts of outdoor activities , as well as their first “Farmer for a DAy ” events out at the Farm Center. This program is offered to boys and girls, ages 7 to 15 years old, interested in working on a farm. Kids will work alongside the farmers and in teams to accomplish daily or seasonal chores. This program is designed to be educational and fun. Children will leave with a greater appreciation of farm life. Most will probably come away saying, “So, I decided not to be a Farmer”, but they’ll have a better appreciation for farm life.

The arts are not to be forgotten either. April 13 is PAN – Poetry Art Night – at the Huron Valley Council for the Arts in Highland. Then on April 20 the final performance in the Classic Series featuring a performance by soprano Karen Roberts at the HVCA. Go tp the Move to Milford web site and click on the poster for all of the info on that event.

For those who love garage sales there are two events – the Community Sharing Garage Sale April 17, 18, 19 at the Apollo Center in Highland and the Mom 2 Mom sale at Lakeland High on April 20.

There is also a job fair for Lakeland High School Students on April 24 to allow the students and potential summer employers to get to know each other.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Freddie Mac report turns gloom into bloom for spring


From the Freddie Mac Web Site comes this report -

March 28
 Low and relatively steady mortgage rates are invigorating the housing market. For instance, existing home sales over January and February experienced the strongest two-month pace since November 2009, while new home sales were the strongest since August and September 2008. This strong demand helped push the S&P/Case-Shiller® 20-city home price index (seasonally adjusted) in January to its highest reading since December 2008. Moreover, the number of consumers expecting to purchase a home over the next six months rose to 5.6 percent in March, the second highest share since data was first collected in February 1964, according to The Conference Board.


Here is a link to the video in which Freddie MAC Vice President and Chief Economist, Frank Nothaft  talks about this forecast.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=lbu2QqM8OuE#t=0s

The bottomline for sellers is to get in on this Spring fling and get your house on the market. For the buyers the advice is to take advantage of the low mortgage rates while you can and before the rising house prices put the really nice homes out of reach. It's all good news!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

New builds decline nationally; but, up in our area


From a press release by the National Association of Home Builders –


WASHINGTON, March 26 - Sales of newly built, single-family homes declined 4.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 411,000 units in February from a strong pace of 431,000 units in the previous month, according to newly released figures from HUD and the U.S. Census Department. Despite the slight decline, this is the second highest monthly total since April 2010 when the federal home buyer tax credit expired.


"New-home sales have been running at a fairly steady pace the last few months, with February adjusting for the strong  sales we saw in January," said Rick Judson, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Charlotte, N.C. "While the February pace  is encouraging, housing's recovery is being significantly constrained by overly tight mortgage lending conditions, and policymaker discussions about changes to the mortgage interest deduction could cast a shadow on future housing demand."


"The February decline is a readjustment to the unusually high numbers that we saw in January, and we are still in line with our forecast for 2013," said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "This is the kind of modest but steady growth we are expecting to see throughout the year as the economy and job market continue to improve, but constraints on borrower credit, higher building material prices and a limited supply of labor and buildable lots hold back a more robust recovery."


Regionally, new-home sales activity was mixed in February, with the Midwest posting a gain of 13.7 percent, while the Northeast, South and West showed declines of 13.3 percent, 9.7 percent and 2.1, respectively.


The inventory of new homes increased to 152,000 units in February, which is a 4.4-month supply at the current sales pace. Although this is an increase over the previous month, it is still well below normal inventory trends.

 
We have certainly seen the strong recovery of new home building in this area, driven mainly by the very tight inventory of resale homes. Builders are selling new homes as fast as they can get them up pretty much in all price ranges. There are still many developments that went belly-up during “The Great Recession” which have not yet restarted. Some of them are likely still bogged down in litigation and some of that is caused by the fact that so many builders got out of the business or lost all of their workers. Combine that with the tight credit market that many smaller builders face and it’s tough to re-launch a building company these days.

 
With the advent of warmer weather, we should see more used homes come on the market, which will help re-balance the market a bit. Right now we are in a seller’s market, with multiple bids and biding wards not uncommon for really nice houses. Homes values have improved about 8% (year-over-year) so far this year. At the low end of the market, cash is king once again, with most sales under $150,000 going to cash buyers. Those investors are buying them up to rent out, if they are in decent shape; or to flip, if they need repairs.

 
Once the credit industry gets tired of shooting itself in its own foot by making borrowing so difficult things should improve quickly, too. There is just a lot of pent-up demand in the market right now, leading to frustrated buyers who either can’t find what they want or can’t bid enough for homes due to the difficult mortgage situation. Would-be renters are also having great difficulty finding places to lease. So many displaced people are in credit rebuilding mode after losing a house that there is little lease inventory available right now for middle-class income families. It is almost impossible to find good homes to lease for under $1,000/mo.
 

My advice for buyers is to be patient and be prepared. You must be ready to make a buying decision and you must be ready with your mortgage pre-approval. You may also have to put more money into the deal than you had hoped, especially if you hit a conservative appraiser who can't see the value of the property like you do. The market is moving in a positive direction again, in terms of appreciation; so, the risk of the property's value dropping after you buy is greatly reduced.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Zillow survey ponts to optimistic recovery

A recent survey by Zillow of over 100 professional economic forecasters produced a prediction of a fairly fast recovery in housing prices - about 4.1% per year over the next five years. That's above the historic (pre-bubble) rate of 3.4% that had been in place for decades. If the Zillow prediction proves true the housing market will recover 22% of the lost value by 2018.







Of course no one can predict with any certainty what will happen and the economic recovery overall is still fragile; however, the current trends in the market certainly seem to support this optimism. You can read the entire Zillow report by clicking here.
 
Locally we have seen an even higher rate of recovery - in the 8%+ range, mainly driven by the extremely tight inventory situation. There's currently too much money chasing too few homes. That will change as soon as the Spring rush of listing occurs and more product in on the market.
 
For now sellers are enjoying a market with multiple bids on most houses and bidding wars are not uncommon. Cash buyers have also dominated the low end of the market for some time, squeezing out many first time buyers. Buyers are just experiencing frustration.
 


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Getting to know you


 “I wonder how many people I’ve looked at all my life and never seen?” (John Steinbeck) from the Jack’s Winning Words blog. You could also state this thought, “I wonder how many people I know that I don’t really know?”

As I get older I’ve become a bit more introspective about thoughts like Steinbeck’s saying. I suspect we all know people that we haven’t really taken the time to see (to know). We may even hang out with them and call them friends or acquaintances, but we really have never taken the time and made the effort to get to know them.

It’s hard with some people to really get to know them, because they might be the types who don’t open up very much or like to share anything about themselves. Many times the circumstances in which we “know” someone don’t facilitate really getting to know them, especially if we know them in a business setting. I belong to a local Chamber of Commerce referral networking group in Milford and we use one-on-one meetings to facilitate getting to know our members better.

For the one-on-one meetings we each commit to meet with another member for an hour long session of getting to better understand that person and their business, so that we can do a better job of giving them referrals. While there is an obvious business reason for the meeting, most members spend most of the meeting time just talking about themselves and their families and lives. It helps to really get to know them better. I haven’t come away from a single one-on-one without a much better understand of that person, as well as an appreciation for what they do for a living.

Most of the time you won’t have the artificial mechanism of a planned one-on-one meeting with someone that you might want to get to know better; however, just a quick invite like, “Let’s get together for a coffee sometime” can provide you with the setting to use to learn more about that person. The key is not to just throw out that line, but to mean it and to follow up on setting a date for that coffee get together.  

Of course, one can also take Steinbeck’s message to be that we look at people in a defocused way and don’t “see” what’s there to be seen, written on their faces or in their mannerisms. As we read about tragedies like the recent teenage suicide of a Middle School student, the phrase “I just didn’t see the signs” is used over and over. People were looking at that young man and not seeing his anguish or problems. They didn’t stop and get to know him well enough to be able to intercede by seeing his problems.

Maybe if someone had seen the signs they might have stopped him and asked if he wanted to talk or if they could help. Perhaps they were too consumed walking along and starting down at their phones to notice him. Perhaps we all are too consumed by modern distractions like that which tend to take our focus away from the people around us. Stop and look around you. Whom do you really see when you look?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Get in the hunt with your little ones...

egg huntToday is the day for the annual Huron Valley Chamber of Commerce free Easter egg hunt. The event divides the kids into three different age group brackets, so that it's a little more fair for the younger aged children. The hunt will tak place at the Duck Lake Pines Park on Duck Lake Rd in Highland. That is about a 1/4 mile south of the Duck Lake and M-59 intersection (South of the Rite-Aid store).

The event kicks off at 10 AM with the arrival of the Easter Bunny to visit with the children. Rumor has it the Bunny will arrive in a brand new Mustang, courtesy of one of the event sponsors - Hinds Park Ford. There will be goody bags for the first 400 children at the event and face painting, in addition to pictures with the Bunny.

The actual hunt begins at 11:00 AM with the 2-4 year olds allowed to take the field. Then at 11:10 AM the 5 - 7 year olds will be turned loose on their own field. Finally, at 11:20 the 8 - 10 year olds will be given a field of eggs to hunt on. The three groups are placed on three different baseball field at the park to allow each groups to only compete with others of the same age.
The event is hosted by the Charter Township of Highland and the Huron Valley Chamber of Commerce. This years sponsors are Genesys Credit Union and Hinds Park Ford. Many local chamber members contributed items for the goodie bags.

So, bundle up the kids and come on out to visit with the Bunny and let your kids have the thrill of the hunt for Easter eggs. It's all good fun! For a map to the park click here - http://tinyurl.com/a53hp74

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Come hear about The Purple Gang

The March General Membership Meeting of the Milford Historical Society is tonight, March 21st. Our guest speaker for the March General Membership meeting is Paul Kavieff author of three Purple Gang books, who will tell the gruesome tale of this juvenile Jewish organized crime gang reigning from 1910 – 1945. Long time Milford residents can probably recite stories about the time when some members of the Purple Gang used to like to hang out in Milford. So come hear about Milford’s gangster time. It’s certainly more interesting than digging up farms around Milford, looking for Jimmy Hoffa.

Paul Kavieff holds degrees from Oakland and Wayne State Universities. He is a nationally recognized organized crime Historian. Using rare police photos, mug shots and group photographs the book takes you back to the days of hijacking and bootlegging. Something the Purple Gang were experts at. But they could not play nice together so power and jealously eventually lead to their own destruction.

The Meeting kicks off with a pot luck dinner at 6:30, followed by the meeting and Paul’s presentation at about 7:30. The meetings are held in the Milford United Methodist Church at 1200 Atlantic St in Milford (near the post office). Remember to ware something purple or make a mobster dish to pass - like Gangster Goulash or Machinegun Meatballs or even better a cake with a file in it. You should also bring your own dinner serving set-up and a drink for yourself. The pot luck dinner is considered one of Milford’s best. I’ll see you there.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I never thought this woudl happen to me...


I hear that phrase more often these days as more and more people who have been just barely hanging on by their fingernails finally get out of denial and call me about a possible short sale. These are not people who did anything wrong. They did not borrow frivolously, nor live extravagantly beyond their means. They are just regular people whose circumstances have changed; some through the loss of a loved one, some through the loss of a long-time job.

 
Most of these people were so sure that this would never happen to them that they entered a period of denial when those circumstances changed; sure that things would somehow change back and everything would be OK again, somehow. That really never happens. So they used what savings they had and perhaps borrowed against what retirement savings they had built up and now they realize that they are in trouble. They’ve started getting nasty letters from their mortgage company or other creditors.

 
This situation is especially hard on the elderly, who were brought up in a society that still put value on personal responsibility and paying one’s debts. Just the thought of being in this situation is too embarrassing for them to discuss easily, even with friends and family, much less a complete stranger. And yet they must get it out in the open in order to do something about it.

 
I have a web site – www.mishortsales.com – that they often find or that I send them to read. I tried to create that site to allow someone in this circumstance to have the ability to read, in anonymity – about the options that they might have in this situation. It’s not a fancy site, as I state on the opening page; but, there’s nothing fancy about this situation that brings people to it. It is just a few pages of straightforward information that I hope will help people better understand the options and make better choices for a course of action. I get lots of call from that site from people far out of my coverage area, so I refer them out to agents with short-sale experience on other areas. If they’re in my area I try to help.

 
As is pointed out in the reading material at the site, success with a short-sale is far from guaranteed. Many of the big banks are so inept at doing them that the foreclosure departments from the same bank often win the race to see who can take the house first. Bank that took bailout money from the government are also required to offer alternatives such as loan modifications, but many of the big banks have also figured out ways to get around those laws by selling off the servicing of those loans to smaller companies. The fat cats will always find a way to game the system.

 
So, while the real estate market is improving, short-sales and foreclosures still make up about 40% of all sales locally and I will continue to get those calls from people who never thought they would be in that position. I’ll help if I can.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Trying to keep up with the market

I'm sure that every market is different across the country, but we may all be trying to do the same things as Realtors - keep up with a changing market. We had the same issue on the slide down in market values during the recession. Now the challenge is to keep abreast of the rapid recovery in some markets.

Lately I've had to watch that I was not too conservative on pricing - still stuck in yesterday's pricing structure. The issue that is still unresolved is not so much whether prices are recovering - they are; it's really about how fast we and the rest of the real estate related industries change with it - the appraisers and loan officers and lenders and the like. I still have to caution sellers that the house must appraise for the new, higher value; before the sale price that they are so happy with can go through to a closing.

Fortunately the ancillary industries are trying to catch up and even lenders are loosening up some. There are also helpful programs at the Federal and State levels that are once again encouraging and assisting home ownership. Of course the very low inventory helps, although it's giving appraisers fits as they search for comps to use to justify the new, higher sale prices.

Even the assessors are scrambling to get on board the recovery with higher assessments and higher taxes. If there is a group that overshot badly in the down direction it is the assessors. Most homeowners thought that was great - lower assessed value and lower taxes; however, now that a number are trying to sell, they're trying to justify the much higher prices that they are asking for the place.

Of course, everybody will catch up and everything will settle into a new normal; likely that will happen this summer some time when inventory catches back up with demand. Until then it will be a scramble on the part of everyone to keep up with the changes that are happening. Welcome to the wonderful world of real estate.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

There's more to it than the numbers


I hear the phrase, "It's all in the numbers", often when agents are discussing real estate. It’s all in the numbers – you need so many suspects to get so many prospects in order to get so many clients, so that you can get so many listings or buyers, so that you can close enough deals to make so much money. Numbers, numbers, numbers.


While I understand the mathematical logic of that argument, it has always gritted a bit on me; because I believe that it’s really “all in the people.” I’m just not comfortable with a philosophy that basically says if you get in front of enough people (no matter what your approach and people skills are) that a certain percentage will go with you and then a certain percentage of those client opportunities will turn into sales that you’ll make money off of. That ends up just looking at the people involved as numbers. I also believe it denigrates the role and people skills of the real estate practitioner by basically saying that any idiot who finds a way to get enough chances will somehow win.

 
Sure, I believe that you have to give yourself enough chances. You have to, through efforts of your own, get the opportunities to demonstrate enough people skills to be chosen to represent the owners and their property or the buyers. I also believe that if you limit yourself to some canned, “it’s all in the numbers” approach to what you do, that when you get those opportunities, you will, in fact, end up getting whatever small percentage of deals that fall out of that kind of thinking. Let’s be honest, many buyers and sellers end up choosing their Realtor for really stupid reasons. Many also end up regretting those choices.

 
So, if it’s not all in the numbers; what is the secret to success? I believe the answer has two components and the main one is how you define success. Those who define success only by more numbers – how much they earn from the sales – will likely never even consider the second component – how happy does the final outcome make the client and you? The funny thing is that the agents who focus more on that second component of success most often end up in the long run doing better on the first component. They end up with a constant stream of referral business that is built upon the foundation of making earlier clients happy and which brings in a constant revenue stream. Those who don’t focus upon that people aspect are constantly trying to keep that big, funnel-shaped new-prospect hopper full.


So is it all really a numbers game? No, it is and always will be a people game and the more you focus on that aspect – making your clients happy with the process and the product – the more you will be successful. After a while you won’t have to worry about the numbers, because the numbers will come to you. And the best part is that you will also feel good about what you do and how you do it. Now that’s my definition of real success – doing something that you like and enjoy and making a living off of doing it.

Monday, March 11, 2013

First stats for March

I had posted the final numbers for February before leaving on vacation and now have posted the real estate sales in my market areas for the first 10 days of March. Continuing the trend that has been evident since the beginning of the year, the total number of sales in February and the first part of March are down this year, when compared to last. That's mainly due to the lack of inventory in the market, but also aligning with the national trend of sales being off a bit.

Locally, Average and Median sale prices continue to trend up in my markets, as does the recovery of the Cost per Square Foot stat. The average for sale value vs. SEV continues to run between 2.4 - 2.6 times SEV in non-distressed sales, which continues to show that the assessors have overshot on the downside and the market has reversed and is rising faster than assessed values.Lower than sale price appraisals continue to top the list of concerns of local Realtors.

The recovery locally has been uneven, with 3-4 of the 9 markets that I track doing very well and 2-3 lagging behind. Those laggards also still have the highest foreclosure and short sale rates. New builds continue strong in Lyon Township and have come back in Milford, too. New build costs per Sq Ft are now running between $115 - 135/Sq Ft, depending upon the quality of the builds. You can see all of the stats for March and 2013 Y-T-D by going to my web site www.movetomilford.com and clicking on the choice - What have homes in this area sold for?

The tight market has also made it more difficult for Realtors and appraisers to find "Comps" to use for Comparative Market Analyses (CMA's) or appraisals. That has also affected Broker Price Opinions (BPO's) that are used by banks to evaluate short sale and foreclosure offers. I've had a tough time doing CMA's lately and have had to expand out further in distance and time than I would normally like in order to fine any similar home sales to use.

What this all means for buyers and sellers?

Well, it's a great time to be a seller - the tight inventory and rising prices have resulted in an environment where you will get the most for your house that the current market will bear, without having a lot of competition. You still need to keep your house in good condition. The market has shifted a bit towards favoring the move-in-ready houses, rather than the fixer-uppers. So if you're getting ready to put your house on the market, work yor way down that to-do list of deferred maintenance items that you've been meaning to get to for some time.

For buyers it's a frustrating market - there is less to choose from and, with more buyers chasing the reduced inventory, it is not unusual to see bidding wars for good houses. In addition, buyers are finding it tougher to get the mortgage that they had supposedly "pre-qualified" for once they have and accepted offer. Stricter underwriting policies mean that buyers need to get the best advice that they can find from their mortgage agent about what to do and not to do during the process. Even the most innocent misstep can put something on your credit report that the underwriters will see and use to disqualify you for that mortgage. If you're a first time buyer or have not owned a home for at least three years, remember that MSHDA is still offering grants of up to $3,000 for non-military and up to $5,000 for military buyers. That money can be used to cover some of your closing costs and does not have to be repaid.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Market report - the low end of the market


This may help explain what’s happening in the low end of the market –


Press Release: February 26, 2013  - Strong Homebuyer Traffic, Rising Home Prices Fail to Lift Market for Damaged REO, New HousingPulse Survey Finds


WASHINGTON, DC (February 26) – Strong homebuyer traffic and limited housing inventory continued to push overall home prices upward in January. But the latest Campbell/Inside Mortgage Finance HousingPulse Tracking Survey results also reveal a growing divergence between prices for non-distressed properties and prices for damaged real-estate owned or REO. (Ed. – I am definitely seeing this trend in the markets that I cover.)


While HousingPulse data shows that home prices overall, based on a three-month moving average, are at the highest level – $236,100 – seen in nearly three years and have been climbing since last spring, those average numbers don’t tell the complete story when it comes to home price trends. (Ed. - See the sold homes data at www.movetomilford.com for the average and median sale prices in the nine markets that I cover.)


Yes, home prices are on the rise for non-distressed properties, which accounted for 65.0 percent of total home purchase transactions tracked by HousingPulse in January. In fact, average home prices for non-distressed properties were up a healthy 5.1 percent on a year-over-year basis – rising from $264,700 in January of 2012 to $278,200 in January of 2013. (Ed. - Again, these are national averages. See my local data for the averages here.)

 
But no, home prices for REO properties in need of repair – the type banks look to unload after a foreclosure – have not been rising along with prices for non-distressed properties. They have been moving in the opposite direction.


According to HousingPulse results, the average price for a damaged REO property sold in January was just $88,100. That was not only 17.1 percent below the average damaged REO price recorded a year ago – $106,300 – but also the lowest level ever recorded by HousingPulse in its four-year history.


One reason for the decline in home prices for damaged REO is the fact that both current and first-time homebuyers have reduce their interest in this type of property for the better part of the past year. HousingPulse results for January show current homeowners with a record low 15.0 percent share of the damaged REO purchase market, while first-time homebuyers had a near-record low share of 19.6 percent. (Ed. – I have definitely seen this locally. More first time buyers are passing on fixer-uppers and going for move-in ready homes.)

 
Meanwhile, investors, lured by low prices and the growing opportunities for flipping, have significantly increased the purchase share of damaged REO properties in recent months. During January, investors accounted for 65.4 percent of damaged REO home purchases, according to HousingPulse numbers. That was up from 58.1 percent a year earlier and the highest level recorded in the survey’s four-year history. (Ed. – In this area we are also seeing cash rule the lower end of the market. Basically anything under $150,000 is going for cash and many have multiple cash bids.)


The Campbell/Inside Mortgage Finance HousingPulse Tracking Survey involves approximately 2,500 real estate agents nationwide each month and provides up-to-date intelligence on home sales and mortgage usage patterns. For more information on the survey, contact John Campbell at Campbell Surveys at (202) 363-2069 or jcampbell@housingpulse.com.


Ed. – So now you know for sure that it wasn’t your imagination. The market at the low end has shifted mainly to investors with cash offers. And the prices at that end have actually declined for damaged houses, rather than rise with the overall market.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Women's Enrichment Day

Tomorrow, March 9, is the date for the 10th annual Women's Enrichment Day at the White Lake Middle School at 1450 Bogie Lake Rd in White Lake. This event is organized by the Highland - White Lake Business Association and features workshops, shopping and lots of fun for area women. It's a day of no chores, no cooking and no kids to watch; a chance to learn about a number of interesting topics for women in the workshops and a chance to shop at the tables of over 40 vendors who will be in attendance. Lunch will be available for purchase and there will be door prize drawings throughout the day.


Workshops will range from how to download books from your library onto your Kindle, iPad or Nook, to learning how to knit to tips for improving your personal energy level. Other workshops will focus upon helpful tips like how to make small drywall repairs and how to make a felt Easter basket for your little egg hunter. There will be beauty tips and financial planning tips and lots of wellness tips. The admission is $5, which goes to the Huron Valley Educational Foundation. The event starts at 8 am and runs until1:30 pm. The first 200 women through the doors will receive a gift bag and an opportunity to have a continental breakfast.

 Obviously the content of the workshops is enriching, but just getting together with other women to network, shop. learn and have fun is enriching in and of itself. Give yourself a break Saturday morning and join your sisters at Women's Enrichment Day. For more about the event read the event brochure by clicking here.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Local real estate sales statistics

The real estate sales statistics for February are up on my web site - www.movetomilford.com . There were more sales (15) in February this year than in 2012 (9); however, the average and median sale pr-ces are down year-over-year, as is the price per square foot and the days-on-market. So we have less expensive homes selling faster this year than last.

Check out the statistics for your area at the web site. there is 3 to 5 years worth of weekly sales data there, so you can chart the trends in your area. Overall in the 9 markets that I track, inventory is down, which has resulted in increasing sales prices and cost per square foot. The low inventory has resulted in bidding wars on some nice, move-in-ready properties. New build activity is up, again due to the low inventory of existing homes.

It is getting a bit frustrating for some first time buyers, especially those still tryingto buy that "jewel in the rough" fixer-upper. They are being outbid by cash buyers, mostly investors looking to do a flip or put the place on the market as a rental unit. It is very hard for the bank to turn down a cash buyer, especially when they offer to buy without an inspection. They makes it impossible for the normal buyer who needs to do a mortgage and can't take the risk of not doing an inspection (in fact, their mortgage company may insist on one anyway). 

I advise my would-be first time buyers to look instead at getting into a move-in ready home, even if it casts a bit more. The truth is, if they can't afford to do that, they probably can't afford to take on the burden of a fixer-upper either.