As 2011 Comes to a Close, Trends Point to a Hotter Real Estate Market in 2012…But Smart Buyers Will Still Find Plenty of Bargains

With New Year’s right around the corner, thoughts turn to resolutions for the year to come…and when it comes to real estate, 2012 looks like it’ll be one to remember. A quick look at local market data (the next best thing to a crystal ball in the real estate business) shows home prices in the Greater Walnut Creek area rising while housing inventories fall. It’s not every day you find a clearer picture of the laws of supply and demand at work:

Real Estate Market Chart by Altos Research

With mortgage rates still phenomenally low and the economy showing new signs of life, it makes sense that home buyers are deciding to take the plunge.

Another intriguing chart shows the Market Action Index (MAI) rising dramatically, while the percentage of homes with price reductions falls equally dramatically:

Real Estate Market Chart by Altos Research

What does this mean in plain English? Not only are the number of local home sales increasing, but the likelihood of finding that amazing bargain home keeps going down. So if you’re in the market for a Walnut Creek home, you might be thinking of adding another New Year’s resolution to your list: pounce on that home you’ve had your eye on before the market gets too much hotter.

But before the charts get you too worried, remember that data can hide as much as it reveals…especially in a market that contains a lot of hidden or “shadow” inventory. Ask any local realtor and they’re likely to tell you that yes, the market’s perking up, but there are still plenty of homes “waiting in the wings” that for one reason or another haven’t been listed yet. The savviest buyers know this as well as the pros, and they know that asking the right realtor the right questions can lead to a great deal. Here are a few to ask in your next conversation:

  • “Is there anything we’re not seeing on the market yet?”
  • “Do you know of any properties we could look at if we waited a month or two?”
  • “I just learned this new real estate term, ‘shadow listings’. Can you show me some examples?” (You’ll enjoy the reaction to this one, believe me.)

You get the idea. The key point to remember here is that real estate isn’t all about data – it’s about asking your realtor the right questions, before the data becomes common knowledge. So maybe that’s the best resolution I can suggest as we head into 2012: ask more questions! Best of all, questions are free, and they could save you a bundle.

Best wishes for a wonderful 2012!