And what shall 2013 bring?

By CLINT FREEMAN, Coldwell Banker Best Realty

Ridgecrest continues to ride the wave of a strong seller’s market. One year ago there were approximately 5.5 months of inventory of single-family homes for sale. At present, inventory rests at 4.13 months. The year 2012 turned out to be a turnaround year where rapid buyer activity outpaced homes entering the market. It was a period for buyers to take advantage of the lowest interest rates ever in history, while for sellers it was a great time to sell providing there was adequate equity to back up the sale.

The year 2013 is expected by many industry watchers to continue to be one of slow recovery and continued growth. Nationwide the housing market is to pick up along with the unemployment rate. Locally, demand will also pick up according to new jobs entering or leaving NAWCWD, our chief employer. Buyers will continue to find that it is cheaper to purchase than to rent. Sellers will realize that a home correctly priced and marketed will sell.

What should 2013 buyers and sellers expect? Here are a few projections:

1. Home inventory will remain low. First-time homebuyers, particularly, will have slim pickings to choose from. Many buyers want to get out of a rental, but finding a home that offers a monthly payment in line with what they are presently paying in rent will be more difficult. Homes in the lower price ranges are most often foreclosures in need of many repairs or older homes that have not been refurbished. Buyers in 2013 may have to refocus their expectations when they begin their search.

2. Lenders will be pickier. Realtors are finding that lenders are scrutinizing their buyers’ credit and bank statements more now than ever before. This is due to the fact that lenders are tightening up their loan eligibility standards. Many new questions are being raised with lenders about buyers’ credit worthiness, and thus the pre-approval process can now take two to three days, rather than a quick afternoon.

3. Escrows will be more difficult to close. At the same time lenders are not only checking buyers’ ability to purchase on the front end of the loan process, but also rechecking buyer ability in the last few days of escrow. This can mean delays, as some lenders will want to reconfirm bank statements, credit items or employment issues. Learn to be patient. Find a realtor who will stay on top of it and will be persistent in tracking the loan process with the lender, particularly at the end of escrow.

4. Inventory of foreclosures will slowly drop. With new bank double tracking laws in effect, banks are expected to lean more toward short sales than foreclosures. This will mean fewer REOs on the market. It remains to be seen if the short-sale process will become a simpler and quicker process. Some banks in 2012, such as Bank of America, took more than six months to approve some short sales. Others banks are expected to make short sales more rapid and simpler. The results remain to be seen in 2013!

For more on the local market go to my blog at www.RidgecrestCa

Ridgecrest Facts as of January 2013

• To date 117 homes, ranging from $24,900 to $525,000, are on the market.

• The past three months’ price-per-square-foot averages of sold single-family homes are College Heights $129, NW $91, NE $79, SE $84, SW $86 and RC Heights $85.

• The median home price increased 13.5 percent from $141,000 in November to $163,000 in December.

California Fast Facts

• The California median home price is $349,000.

• The lowest median home prices are Madera $113,300 and Ridgecrest $163,000

• The highest median home price by region is Marin at $837,840. (Source: C.A.R.)

Story First Published: 2013-01-16