Advantage, buyer: Market shift puts first-timers in the driver's seat

The days of bidding wars, low inventory and double-digit price increases are over in most parts of the country. Following a national upswing from 2001 to 2007, in which average home values spiked more than 30 percent, the pendulum is swinging the other way. It's no wonder real estate experts agree that now is an excellent time to buy—especially for first-timers. While lending standards may have tightened, interest rates remain at a generational low. And