Syndicated — The 2012 buying and selling season is well underway and the housing market is finally showing signs of life. Agents are sharing stories of bidding wars in many markets as buyers are getting off the fence, ready to capitalize on still-record low levels of affordability.
So is now really a good time to buy? In many markets yes, and some places are better markets for buyers than others.
Knowing that some people might still be wary of dipping their toes in the real estate market, we looked at the places where it makes a lot of sense to buy if you live there. To determine our Best Places to Buy in 2012 list, we gave equal weight to several factors including:
- housing prices compared to local incomes
- home value trends (where home values have been stabilizing or rising over the past year and past quarter)
- unemployment rates and the change in unemployment rates over the past year
- whether buying makes more sense than renting.
One caveat - just because your city didn't rise to the top of our list doesn't mean you shouldn't buy there. If you're planning to live in your home at least 5-7 years and have good credit, now can be a great time to buy in many markets.
Grand Rapids, MI
Home values are on the upswing in Grand Rapids, increasing on a monthly, quarterly and yearly basis according to Zillow's Home Value Index (ZHVI). Home values are up 4.8 percent from April last year.The median home value is $108,000 which compares favorably with median incomes in the area. The unemployment picture is also improving in Grand Rapids, falling nearly 2 percent this past year.
843 Mayhew Wood Dr SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49507 (below)
For sale: $129,900
This updated Alger Heights home is in an established neighborhood and has 3 beds, 2 baths and contains 1,551 square feet. Renovated kitchen has maple cabinets and granite tile counters. The flooring features natural slate, hardwood and newer carpeting.
See other Grand Rapids homes for sale.
Phoenix is a poster child for the housing recession. Home values have fallen a whopping 54 percent since the peak of market. Currently, the metro is still working through high levels of foreclosure inventory; foreclosure re-sales made up 28 percent of all sales in April. This is actually good news, because it signals that investors are coming in droves to scoop up homes. All of this investor activity is starting to boost home values. Not only are Phoenix home values up, Zillow forecasts them to rise 6.5 percent this year. "Phoenix is probably the best example of a hard-hit market that is showing signs of recovery," according to Stan Humphries, Zillow's chief economist.
4818 W Gwen St, Laveen, AZ 85339 (below)
For sale: $150,000
No need to worry about the grass growing or dying from the intense Arizona heat in this home. The huge backyard contains artificial grass, plus has a built-in spa, barbecue surround and fireplace. There's plenty of space inside, too, with 3,317 square feet of living space, including 4 beds and 3 baths. It just recently underwent a price cut of $15,000.
See more Phoenix homes for sale
Home values in Pittsburgh have been rising for the past year, making it one of the better performing markets in the country. In fact, 87 percent of homes there sold for a gain in April - the highest rate in the country.
1216 Ingham St, Pittsburgh, PA 15212 (below)
For sale: $119,900
It might be circa 1929, but this grand, old home on a tree-lined street has been freshened up with new paint and updated with new windows, doors, tile and hardwood floors, glass block and back splash, also a new roof and garage.
See more Pittsburgh homes for sale
Oklahoma City, OK
Home values rose 4.9 percent in Oklahoma City this past year and the unemployment rate is one of the lowest on our list at 5.1 percent and falling. While some markets on our list represent markets that are showing signs of life after suffering from years of falling home values, Oklahoma City stands out as a beacon of stability, 80 percent of homes in April sold for a gain.
8617 S Kentucky Ave, Oklahoma City, OK 73159 (below)
For sale: $114,900
Neatly groomed, trimmed and cared for, this Oklahoma City home has an updated kitchen with new countertops, backsplash, stainless steel appliances, and cabinets. Walls in all rooms have been textured and freshly painted. Cathedral ceilings and bookshelves in living room.
See more Oklahoma City homes for sale
Rochester has been another steady performer throughout the housing crisis and while home values are down slightly for the year, values are rising on a monthly and quarterly basis. Rochester scored especially high in the price to rent category. It takes 7.3 years of rent to buy a similar home in Rochester, compared with the national average of 10.4. Buyers also have some negotiating room, 40 percent of listings had price cuts in April. 80% of homes sold for a gain in April.
50 Navarre Rd, Rochester, NY 14621 (below)
ZHVI is $117,100
For sale: $129,900
This 3-bed, 2.5-bath cheery yellow Colonial home offers 1,860 square feet of living space and is located on a tree-lined street across from the Seneca Park Zoo. Charming details include leaded glass on windows and doors, hardwood floors, moldings and French doors to enclosed porch.
See more Rochester homes for sale
Dallas made our list with a high score in the affordability category, home prices are 5 percent below their historical average, even though home values have performed much better than most of the country, falling 15 percent from their peak. Buyers in Dallas also get a good bang for their buck, the median value per square foot in Dallas is $65, compared with $92 for the nation.
6050 Fox Point Trl, Dallas, TX 75249 (below)
ZHVI is $121,600
For sale: $125,000
Enjoy Tri-Cities view from this traditional 3-bed, 2.5-bath home, which on the Southwest Dallas real estate market. Kitchen includes granite countertops, stone backsplashes, a black undermount sink, and cherry wood cabinets. Upstairs bedrooms include huge, Texas-size master suite and bath with sitting area, jetted tub & large 5 foot shower.
See more Dallas homes for sale
Couple stable home values with affordability, and it's good to be a buyer in Memphis. Buyers also get a lot of house for their money in Memphis - the median value per square foot is $60. For comparison's sake, the median value per square foot in Honolulu is $405 (granted you get to live in Hawaii, but still!)
5604 Jamestown Ave, Memphis, TN 38115 (below)
ZHVI: ZHVI is $96,000
For sale: $120,000
If you love Colonial Williamsburg, you'll love this home which offers period touches and includes 4 beds, 2 baths and 2,728 square feet of space. Den includes fireplace.
See more Memphis homes for sale
Home prices compare favorably to incomes in Dayton, and affordable homes mean buying makes more sense than renting. 38 percent of listings had a price cut in April so buyers also have some negotiation room as well.
1443 E 4th St, Dayton, OH 45402 (below)
ZHVI is $91,000
For sale: $119,900
This 2,482-sq ft home in the St. Anne's Historic district has been updated and includes 3 beds and 2 baths. The living room features an antique carved mantle and surround for the gas fireplace. Both the living room and dining room have hardwood floors and wide woodwork.
See more Dayton homes for sale