Housing Market Plunge Passes Depression's

In this June 28, 2010 photo, a New Price is advertised on this home for sale in Palo Alto, Calif. Mortgage rates have sunk to the lowest level in more than five decades, but consumers aren't rushing to refinance their loans or buy homes.(AP Photo/Paul Sakuma) AP Photo

NEW YORK -- Home prices fell for the 53rd straight month in November, taking the decline past that of the Great Depression for the first time in the prolonged housing slump, according to Zillow.com.

Prices have fallen 26 percent since their peak in 2006, exceeding the 25.9 percent drop registered in the five years between 1928 and 1933, the housing data company reports.

The word comes on the heels of figures showing banks repossessed more than one million homes in the U.S. last year -- and they're expected to take back even more this year.

On "The Early Show" Thursday, Jason Cochran, Editor-at-Large at AOL's WalletPop.com, discuss what it all means for buyers, sellers, mortgage-seekers, people mulling refinancing or doing home improvements, and others:

He says this is, as you might expect, a great time to buy. Foreclosures and short sales made up a significant portion of homes sold in last year's latter stages. Foreclosed houses sell on average for almost a-third less than non-foreclosures. January is a particularly good time for buyers, especially in Northeast. Sales slow to a crawl, so buyers are in a good position.

Cochran adds that sellers obviously remain on the other side of the housing coin.

So many foreclosures on the market stiffen competition, but those can take a while to close, so if your house isn't in foreclosure, you may attract buyers who need a place right away. Home buying tax credits expired, taking some wind out of the sails. You may also be more likely to attract cash buyers since the mortgage process is so painful right now.

Advice: MAKE YOUR HOME STAND OUT. You're competing against bargain-bin houses! You must be proactive in making sure yours is up-to-date with repairs.

Some sellers are going through real estate agents to pitch people who looked at the house but didn't bid -- it's called a "reverse offer" -- and it's happening more and more. Others are tossing in extra inducements: "Get a free flat-screen TV if you buy my house!" "I'll pay your closing costs," etc. One Connecticut couple is throwing in their Florida townhouse in with the sale of their $615,000 house!

To see co-anchor Chris Wragge's complete interview with Cochran, click on the video below:

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