Buying home? Sorry, sellers are in charge

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Buying home? Sorry, sellers are in charge

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It’s still a seller’s market out there in most places. So rejoice if you’re selling a house, and feel a bit apprehensive if you’re trying to find a house to buy.

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And if, like my boss, you have found the house you want to buy, and you’re hurrying to get your house on the market so you can buy that house you covet — well, you’re anxious and excited at the same time.

At least mortgage rates are awesomely low.

Home sales and prices are hotter

Existing home sales in June rose to their highest annual pace in almost 4 years, according to the National Association of Realtors. Homes sold at an annual rate of 5.57 million. That’s up 1.1% compared to May, and up 3% compared to June 2015. The median price was up 4.8% year-over-year, to $247,700.

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That’s not the only measurement of prices. Home prices rose 5.6% from May 2015 to this May, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The mountain states (Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico) had the fastest year-over-year price appreciation, at 8.5%, according to the agency.

What it means for buyers and sellers

“The dynamics are pretty strong for sales and prices,” says Steve Udelson, president of, a real estate brokerage that offers consumers a choice of the level of service they receive. But he says price appreciation is tempered by the influx of 1st-time homebuyers. According to the Realtors, 1st-timers constituted 33% of buyers in June, the highest that proportion has been since July 2012.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the Realtors, says: “The modest bump in June sales to 1st-time buyers can be attributed to mortgage rates near all-time lows and perhaps a hopeful indication that more affordable, lower-priced homes are beginning to make their way onto the market. The odds of closing on a home are definitely higher right now for 1st-time buyers living in metro areas with tamer price growth and greater entry-level supply — particularly areas in the Midwest and parts of the South.”

Not many homes for sale

Nationally, the inventory of homes for sale is at a 4.6-month supply at the current sales pace, according to the Realtors. That’s a tight inventory, which gives sellers the advantage. The national number gives only a vague indication of what’s going on in particular cities and towns and neighborhoods: In a few places, there are plenty of homes for sale, and in others, affordable and acceptable houses are hard to find.

The limited supply in a lot of places means buyers have to work harder, Udelson says: They should look at foreclosed homes or houses that are not listed in multiple listing services.

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