According to a recent nationwide survey of real estate professionals, the average length of time for-sale houses spend on the market has increased dramatically in the past six months.

Seventy-five percent of respondents said it now takes more than 30 days to sell a house, and of that figure 30 percent said it takes more than 60 days, according to HouseHunt’s current market conditions survey. Three months ago, 52 percent of survey respondents said the average time on the market required for a home to sell was more than 30 days, and only 35 percent said it was taking more than 30 days.

HouseHunt provides free information to homeowners, buyers and sellers through HouseHunt.com and MoveUp.com. The current market conditions survey is taken quarterly and measures figures such as time on the market between listing and contract, first-time buyer activity, price appreciation and the difference between asking and sale prices.

Additional highlights from the fourth-quarter survey were:

  • Home sales prices remain firm: 82 percent of respondents said say they are receiving 95 percent or more of asking prices. This compares with 80 percent in the third quarter and 90 percent in the second quarter of 2005.

  • Solid appreciation: One-half of all respondents report home price appreciation of 10 percent or more year-over-year in the fourth quarter. This compares with 46 percent in the third quarter and 42 percent in the second quarter.

  • Multiple offers down: 50 percent of respondents report multiple offers. This is down from 70 percent in the second and third quarters of this year.

  • Buyer-seller demand nearly equal: A more balanced real estate market between buyer and seller demand has emerged in many parts of the country. This compares with a 61-39 percent buyer ratio in the third quarter.

  • First-time buyers: The percentage of first-time buyers has stayed about the same at 35 percent for the last six-nine months despite price and appreciation spikes on the East and West coasts and in Florida, Phoenix and Las Vegas. The greatest first-time buyer activity continues to be in the South and Midwest. Repeat and move-up buyer activity remains strong. Investor and second-home demand has slowed.

  • Inventory of unsold homes growing: 65 percent said the trend is up in local markets. Fifty-five percent report a good supply in all price ranges. Only 38 percent reported a good supply six months ago.

  • Market Growth: Survey respondents overwhelmingly said that job and population growth continues to fuel housing demand in local markets.

“Our latest random survey findings are consistent with both national housing sales data and forecasts of top industry economists,” said Michael Bearden, president and CEO of HouseHunt. “Our strong economy and consumer demand made record home sales possible in 2005 despite destructive hurricanes, rising mortgage interest rates and higher energy costs. We’re optimistic that a sustainable, more balanced housing market will be the cornerstone of the U.S. economy in 2006.”

A sampling of individual survey results:

  • Clint Johnson of Rose & Womble and exclusive HouseHunt member agent in the Virginia Beach and Norfolk, Va., area said: “During the past few weeks we have seen a softening of the market, with fewer multiple offers and buyers negotiating for closing cost assistance.” He noted that the area has seen tremendous growth in prices and in units sold. Median home price is $230,000, up 15-20 percent in the past year.

  • Rod Sullivan of GMAC Metro Brokers, exclusive HouseHunt member agent for Lithonia, Ga., reports more sellers than buyers with a good supply of unsold homes. Average time on the market is 90-120 days. “Our greatest activity is from first-time buyers. Median home price is $150,000. Sellers are getting 95-100 percent of asking prices.”

  • Steve Gaines of CENTURY 21 Landtree and exclusive HouseHunt member agent in Greenwood, Ind., reports more sellers than buyers and a good supply of unsold homes. “Average time on the market is 90-120 days,” he said. Median home price is $175,000.

  • Diane Ash of Weichert Realtors and exclusive HouseHunt member agent in Middletown, Del., said lower property taxes are attracting buyers from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Median home price is $300,000. Average time on the market is 30-60 days.

  • Tim Ireland of Coldwell Banker Honig-Bell and exclusive HouseHunt member agent in Mokena, Ill., said sellers and buyers are about 50-50. Average time on the market is 60-90 days. Median price is $261,190 with a good supply of unsold homes.

  • Leah and Neville Bradshaw of Long & Foster Old Town/Historic, exclusive HouseHunt member agents in Lorton, Va., reported more sellers than buyers and a median home price of $543,000, up 10-15 percent over last year. Even though sellers frequently get more than 100 percent of asking prices, they said that first-time buyers are very active. 

  • Dan Urbach of Prudential California and exclusive HouseHunt member agent in Pacific Palisades, Calif., said his market is settling down from a very hot seller’s market to a more balanced market. Median priced home is $2 million, up 15-20 percent over a year ago. Average time on the market is 30-60 days.

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to jessica@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 133.

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