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Hot Spring Real Estate Market? How About A Home Buying Thaw

My friend, Doug, is happy. He gleefully announced in an email late last week that his home in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, sold within a couple of months of being listed for just 8 percent less than list price. Sure, there was more haggling than he'd have liked. But he's got a closing date, has ordered packing boxes, and is getting ready to move his family to Boston in June.

Except for the fact that he sold for 8 percent below list price - which admittedly sounds almost like full-price these days, what with foreclosures selling at 30 cents on the dollar - you'd have thought we were in the middle of a hot spring real estate market.

Oh, that's right. We are.

Traditionally, the busiest time for selling a home is spring. If you're going to publish a book on buying or selling a home (and I've published several), you always set the pub date for spring, when more homes sell than at any other time during the year. (Watch for my next real estate book to be published in Spring, 2010.)

This year, the temperature of the spring real estate market has been dialed back to a slow thaw. But a thaw is certainly better than the completely frozen markets we've seen over the past few quarters. (My husband, Sam, actually went to a real estate closing yesterday. My son remarked on his attire - a suit.)

The anecdotal evidence is starting to show that something is stirring. The National Association of Home Builders noted that the number of new homes under contract rose a bit in March (although that number is still extremely low). The National Association of Realtors reported that pending sales of existing homes also inched up a bit that month.

There's nothing like the combination of interest rates at 40-year low levels, falling home prices, and certain limited-run tax incentives to entice a home buyer to jump off the fence and buy a house. According to a recent Gallup poll, some 71 percent of Americans think now is a good time to buy. While down from the 81 percent who thought 2003 was a good year to buy it's up dramatically from last year's numbers.

I think they're right.