In what may go down as a banner day for the housing market, three pieces of good news out today point to the possibility of a recovery on multiple fronts.
Homebuilder confidence hit a five-year high, while housing affordability -- an index based on the relationship between median home prices, median family incomes, and average mortgage interest rates -- has never been better. And, for the first time in nine years, Realtors reported an increase in year-over-year earnings.
"[The data] shows us that buyers are in a position to buy. As job markets improve, they have more to spend, and they're able to take advantage of today's housing affordability," said Jed Kolko, chief economist of listing service Trulia. "We're seeing a recovery on all fronts."
Builder confidence, as measured by the National Association of Home Builders' Housing Market Index, surged four points from a slight slump in April, to 29 on a scale of 100, the NAHB reported today. The jump is based on improved buyer traffic and increased home sales, as noted by builders.
"While home building still has quite a way to go toward a fully healthy market, the fact that the HMI has returned to trend is an excellent sign that firming home values, improving employment and low mortgage rates are drawing consumers back," said NAHB chief economist David Crowe.
Crowe added that a nascent recovery would pick up pace if it weren't for banks' reluctance to ease lending standards. Indeed, many experts point to the the tight credit environment as the chief thing keeping homebuyers from capitalizing on otherwise perfect-storm buying conditions that are a result of record low mortgage interest rates and rock-bottom home prices.
Best Places to Buy a Home Now
Trifecta of Good News Boosts Real Estate Market
The jury is in: Our beleaguered housing market has finally turned the corner, many experts say.
Not only are home prices beginning to edge up for the first time in months, but other indicators, like home construction and sales, are stronger than they've been in years. Still, with tight lending conditions and shaky employment, the progress is slow in most communities.
But not in these places.
There are actually markets that are steaming at full speed toward recovery. But with home prices still severely depressed, compared to 2006 levels, many properties remain ripe for the taking.
Keep clicking to see some of the best homes (as determined by Realtor.com) for sale in some of the hottest markets.
Year-Over-Year Median List Price Appreciation: 8.04 percent
Year-Over-Year Inventory Change: -47.36 percent
Home Location: Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Price: $11.3 million
Sq. Ft.: 13,282
The quintessential enormous Florida mega-mansion, this home boasts 145 feet of canal waterfront, with quick access to the ocean. Its backyard has a pool and hot tub, a full service concrete dock, and an outdoor dining area with a summer kitchen.
Built in 2009, the home features all state-of-the art appliances. The kitchen has an oversize center island, a walk-in pantry and a separate butler’s pantry. The master suite features a sitting area, two walk-in closets and two master bathrooms.
This newly built, never-before-occupied home is located in the highly sought after Phillips Park community in Washington, D.C. It was built with energy-saving in mind, with Energy Star appliances, high-performance windows, insulated doors, energy efficient heating and cooling systems, and water-saving plumbing.
Year-Over-Year Median List Price Appreciation: 8.58 percent
Year-Over-Year Inventory Change: -29.15 percent
Home Location: University Park, Texas
Sq. Ft.: 6,561
This classic five-bedroom home with a stone exterior has some interesting and unique features. It has a two-story library, an Old World pizza oven, a wine vault, and an outdoor loggia with built-in grill.
There is a tiki bar with summer kitchen; a pool with a large, beautiful waterfall and a spa; two wrap-around decks (one on each floor); and the second floor deck has its own hot tub. There’s also a sound system wired throughout the house and lanai, which is also wired for a TV.
Its banquet-size dining room is perfect for entertaining, and its extreme kitchen is a chef’s dream. It features a Sub-Zero refrigerator, a Sub-Zero two-drawer freezer, large double oven, two dishwashers, ice maker, level-5 granite counters, a chef’s special area for preparing meals, and a walk-in appliance closet. And all with spectacular water views.
In the home's foyer, stone columns reach to soaring ceilings. The ceilings rise even higher in its family room, which has a granite fireplace and remote-controlled blinds. The home's pool area has a swim-up wet bar and includes 1,300 square feet of imported stone.
Year-Over-Year Median List Price Appreciation: 7.07 percent
Year-Over-Year Inventory Change: -48.35 percent
Home Location: Oakland, Calif.
Price: $2.2 million
Sq. Ft.: 3,717
Oakland's price appreciation over the last year has been relatively modest compared to some of our other picks. But the market's rapidly clearing inventory identifies the area as a promising investment opportunity. From its hillside perch in Oakland, this Tuscan-style stunner presides over San Francisco Bay. The interior features custom finishes, Venetian plaster, pecan hardwood floors and vaulted ceilings.
Year-Over-Year Median List Price Appreciation: 14.34 percent
Year-Over-Year Inventory Change: -34.16 percent
Home Location: Naples, Fla.
Price: $2.997 million
Sq. Ft.: 5,076
This palm tree-lined home nestles into a .60-acre lot blanketed with lush landscaping. Despite rising listing prices in the area, this home just got a price cut, with its ask now just under $3 million.
Year-Over-Year Median List Price Appreciation: 17.53 percent
Year-Over-Year Inventory Change: -36.87 percent
Home Location: Boise, Idaho
Price: $2.325 million
Sq. Ft.: 6,258
Boise's certainly a bright spot on today's sometimes-gloomy housing horizon, and if you dip into its sizzling market, you can bet on bagging a lot more space than you would in many coastal cities. That's the case with this Spanish-style, stucco beauty, which, beyond its 5.85-acre plot and 6,258-square-foot interior, offers elaborate finishes and decor.
Year-Over-Year Median List Price Appreciation: 11.54 percent
Year-Over-Year Inventory Change: -41.58 percent
Home Location: Orlando, Fla.
Price: $3 million
Sq. Ft.: 6,999
Orlando clocks in at a third on our list of the hottest markets out there. In the fast-recovering city sits this beautifully manicured property. The stone-built home is just over 10 years old and commands 1.27 acres of verdant landscape.
Amenities await wherever you go on this luxury property. Pictured here is a wine bar complemented by one of the home's pool tables. Outside there's a pool, boat ramp, slip and dock. Community amenities include a fishing pier, fitness center, golf course, playground and tennis courts.
Year-Over-Year Median List Price Appreciation: 24.32 percent
Year-Over-Year Inventory Change: -48.03 percent
Home Location: Miami Beach, Fla.
Price: $3 million
Sq. Ft.: 1,332
While foreclosure-saturated Florida has been walloped by the housing crash, the Miami-area market still costs a pretty penny per square foot. And considering that the market is really starting to heat up, local turf is not about to get any less expensive. If you're in a position to pony up $3 million, you can bag this swanky apartment.
Year-Over-Year Median List Price Appreciation: 26.94 percent
Year-Over-Year Inventory Change: -48.04 percent
Home Location: Phoenix
Price: $5.995 million
Sq. Ft.: 11,039
This French chateau rose shortly after the onset of the housing meltdown, and almost undoubtedly has seen its value tumble over the last few years in Phoenix's hard-hit real estate market.
But days ahead might be brighter for this 11,039-square-foot behemoth. Phoenix, like some of the other hardest-hit markets, is mounting a furious comeback. Realtor.com says prices have shot up nearly 27 percent in the last year.
The home's rear has a covered patio with fireplace that looks out on the property's expansive pool. Some of the home's notable amenities: a recording studio, spa, four-car garage, wine room, theater, guesthouse and giant master suite.
The latest Housing Affordability Index corroborates the view that market conditions are possibly as friendly to buyers as they've ever been. The index, which measures affordability based on the relationship between median home price, median family income and average mortgage interest rates, broke the 200 mark for the first time since record keeping began in 1970, NAR announced today.
According to the NAR, the index shows that a median-income family, earning just under $61,000, could afford a home costing $325,500 in the first quarter, which is more than double the national median existing single-family home price of $158,100. The median monthly mortgage principal and interest payment for a median-priced home would take only 13.5 percent of gross income.
All this activity has Realtors breathing a sigh of relief. For the first time since 2002, agents saw their income increase, rising 2.3 percent to $34,900 in 2011.
"Many Realtors have persevered through very difficult market conditions and understand the cyclical nature of the business, but have never had to endure a cycle like the one that is presently waning," said Paul Bishop, NAR's vice president of research. "The good news is home sales are rising, overall activity is expected to be notably better this year and individual prospects are much brighter given there are fewer Realtors than several years ago."