As a member of USAA, my husband and I receive their USAA Mailer, the Member’s Guide to Financial Security. In our latest issue, there was a wonderful article about the different metro areas in the United States and the best places to move right now based on the housing market. Although it’s a great article, I am just summing up the information below from the article written by Kerry Hannon.

There were three areas that were indicated as the median home price projected to increase in 2010 and they were Tacoma, Washington, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and Memphis, Tennessee. The areas where the median home price is projected to decrease in 2010 were Las Vegas, Phoenix, Amarillo, Denver, Chicago, Detroit, and Orlando. Job loss is a major factor. Though unemployment were seems to be leveling off, many borrowers who have been out of work are likely to fall into foreclosure.

In a topsy-turvy housing market, it’s more important than ever to know the facts before buying or selling. From California to the Carolinas, homebuyers are snapping up some of the best home prices in decades. Sellers, on the other hand, grapple to get what they believe is a decent offer. The housing market may be on the mend, but things aren’t likely to change overnight. Sellers are not lowing their prices, they are just taking what people will give them for their homes.

Hope for the future?

There are glimmers that the housing market is beginning to lift out of one of the worst slumps since the Great Depression. In 2009 low home prices pushed sales higher in many parts of the country. But the encouraging news should be met with caution. Why?

The boost was fueled primarily by:

• Foreclosure sells.
• A tax credit for first-time home buyers.
• The Federal Reserve’s program of buying most new mortgages to keep rates low for mortgage seekers.

Some experts argue the market already hit bottom, but others do not agree. The national median home price is forecast to decline 11.5% by the third quarter of 2010, to $157,707 from $178,200, according to the Fiserv Case-Shiller Home Price Index. Then, it’s expected to rise 4.8% by the third quarter of 2011.

A major factor is job losses. Though unemployment seems to be leveling off, many borrowers who have been out of work for some time are likely to fall into foreclosure or short sales. Ultimately, that will dump more houses on the market, dragging down prices. Detroit currently has the lowest housing prices in the country due to the recession in the auto industry. And homw prices in osme of the nation’s biggest metro areas – New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago – are expected to slide further. Prices are expected to start up again in 2011 in Los Angeles and Chicago.
But there are locations, such as Charlesston, S.C., and parts of Washington state, where home prices are improving. And in other places the market is still depressed.

Sage Advice for Buyers

• Prepare your finances – In general, your monthly mortgage payment, including principal, interest, real estate taxes, and homeowners insurance, should not exceed 28% of your gross monthly income. And don’t overlook the variable cost of homeowners insurance from state to state.
• Consider your horizon – Prices aren’t expected to improve significantly in most areas for several years, so think twice before you buying.
• Be pragmatic – Avoid buying something too unusual, but you don’t have to buy a cookie cutter house, either.
• Be hard-nosed, but reasonable – Don’t expect a seller to take off $40,000 from the sale price, but do offer around 10% below what comparable houses are selling for in the neighborhood. Offer less, but be willing to pay the selling price if the seller will pay closing costs. And be willing to walk. If there are other homes that fit your criteria, don’t get stuck fighting for one.

Sage Advice for Sellers

• Set a fair price – If you’re anxious to sell, list your home at 10% below comparable homes in your neighborhood. To get attention, set your selling price at the low end of a price scale.
• Use online help selectively – Check Zillow.com, HomeGain.com, RealEstateABC.com, Trulia.com, and other online sites that offer home value estimates. But be aware that data may be old and spotty on details.
• Be open-minded – Many buyers come in with lowball offers, but don’t be fooled. They’re probably testing the waters. Keep the dialogue open and hopefully you will be able to strike a deal.
• Give and you will receive – Buyers want to think they got a steal, so make them feel like they did. Pick up the tab for some of the closing costs, dangle a cash bonus of $1,000 to a buyer’s agent, toss in new appliances, spring for repairs, or pay for a home warranty.
• Use an agent – It pays to list your property with a knowledgeable agent. Get a market analysis. Make sure the agent is going to market your property properly both online and using traditional marketing.

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