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Two Thirds of Realtors Positive on Prices

Confidence in the 2012 housing market among Realtors is increasing and some 67 percent expect prices to rise in the months to come. However, the overall jobs and economic situation continues to have a major, negative impact on the residential markets.

Generally positive feedback from more than 4000 brokers and agents participating in the latest Realtor Confidence Index by the National Association of Realtors continued an upswing in market optimism that began at the end of the third quarter last year. Confidence in the single family, townhouse and condo segments all increased in January, but were lowest for condos, which still registered 17.9 in the index vs. 10.1 a year ago. Here's the breakdown by segment:

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• Confidence in Single Family current market conditions at 37.2 vs. 27 a year ago.

• Confidence in Single Family market conditions outlook over next 6 months at 46.1.

• Confidence in Townhouse current market conditions at 22.5 vs. 13.3 a year ago.

• Confidence in Townhouse market conditions outlook over next 6 months at 28.7.

• Confidence in Condo current market conditions at 17.9 vs. 10.1 a year ago.

• Confidence in Condo market conditions outlook over next 6 months at 23.4.

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Realtors participating in the survey also reported that median time on market has declined slightly. Properties on the market more than six months fell from 29 to 28 percent of total inventory. Some 47 percent of listings have been on the market for three months or less and 12 percent have been listed more than a year.

The market share of distress sales rose to 35 percent in January, the higher end of the 30 to 35 percent range where distress sales have hovered for several years, with heavy sales concentrated in a few states. Foreclosures have been selling at 20 percent below market. Short sales have been selling at 15 percent below market.

The percentage of properties purchased by investors rose for the fourth straight month to 23 percent of sales and all cash sales, a barometer of investor activity, accounted for 31 percent of all sales in January. The percentage of sales to first time buyers rose slightly from December's level to 33 percent, but normally first time buyers are in the neighborhood of 40 percent of total residential sales, according to NAR's Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. Second home purchasers accounted for 13 percent of sales, about the same market share as in 2011.

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Approximately 60 percent of buyers made down payments less than 11 percent. A total of 35 percent of residential home purchasers were reported as making an initial down payment greater than 20 percent in January 2012 among those obtaining a mortgage.

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