Real estate sales activity increased in 26 states and the national sales rate dropped 2.1 percent in the first quarter of 2006, the National Association of Realtors reported in May, but Inman News has its own way to scope out the market: ask the readers.

We asked on our blog, “How is the housing market in your area?” and readers were quick to answer. And, alas, the news isn’t good: almost every other answer either contained the phrase “rising inventory” or “buyer’s market.”

For example, one anonymous poster said that Northern Virginia (NOVA) is “overflowing” with inventory. Noting that a lag is expected between rising inventories and price reductions, the poster said, “About now is when prices are expected to start downward – how far, no one knows.”

A poster named Merv said, “Echo anonymous for NOVA … In Northern Virginia, Loudoun County is experiencing one new ratified contract for every three new listings. In some neighborhoods with high inventories, prices are coming down almost a hundred grand from the high $600,000s to the high $500,000s.”

Southeast Pennsylvania is a buyer’s market, “for sure,” according to one reader who said, “I’ve seen several ads by agents, ‘Buyers Wanted! Call Us!'”

The reader said inventory is rising in southeast Pennsylvania. “Four months ago, we found nothing decent in our median price range. Now, there are at least 50 moderate listings in our school district in the MLS alone, not to mention all the FSBOs we saw today driving around.”

Also, there have been many price reductions, the poster said.

Another reader from Pennsylvania, an attorney who maintains a real estate blog, Pittsburgh Housing Daily, said, “Pittsburgh has been classified a buyer’s market for years, but my impression is that there is a lot of money flowing into several niche markets: historic homes in good neighborhoods; fixer uppers; and new developments where the taxes aren’t quite as high as Allegheny County.”

In Phoenix, Ariz., “inventory is high,” according to real estate consultant Greg Markov, who pegged Phoenix inventory at 40,000 active listings, compared with less than 12,000 listings a year ago.

“Suburbs are hurting most,” Markov said. “People are reconsidering driving an hour to work with $3 a gallon gas prices. Sellers are reducing prices an average of 5 to 10 percent to get the properties moving.”

Markov said midtown areas are “still okay, though much, much slower.”

The “buyer’s market” appellation was applied to Florida’s Palm Beach County, on Florida’s southeast coast, by one poster, who said, “inventory is sky-high and prices are slowly starting to reduce.” Also, the poster said, “I’ve seen appraisers getting skittish and more buyers getting financing problems.”

As for southwest Florida, the area, “in particular Cape Coral/Ft. Myers area, has been experiencing price reductions for more than six months now,” according to Mark Diaz, whose blog is Cape Coral Real Estate News.

“This time last year, a 2,000-square-foot house listed in the $240,000s wouldn’t last a week. Now they are staying on the market for months,” Diaz posted. “Inventory is high,” with more than 4,800 homes for sale, he said.

Like the market in Florida, California’s real estate market was one of the hottest in the country. But now, according to one poster, it’s a buyer’s market in Marin County in northern California, “especially high-end where things are selling 75 percent on the asking dollar. Bad press, high interest rates and rising stock market (are) hurting expensive homes here.”

Marin County is notorious for its high prices (and even has its own bubble blog, Marin Real Estate Bubble), but Sacramento, Placer, El Dorado and Yolo Counties, also in northern California, are not. Regardless, it’s a buyer’s market in those counties, one reader said, especially at the high end. “Low-end homes, entry-level tend to be neutral,” the reader said.

“Days on market have increased, in some areas as much as 90 days,” the reader said.

As far as Southern California, the towns of Ontario and Fontana are a buyer’s market, with sellers “reluctantly coming down on the asking prices,” according to hbooker, a Realtor who added, “I’m seeing homes that have been on the market since January of this year still on the market … my last four transactions this year have been working with buyers.”

The lone note of hope comes from Oregon, with Ron Ares, an Oregon broker who created a Portland real estate blog, commenting that Portland “is still experiencing a brisk market and 12-month average appreciation of nearly 17 percent.”

Though inventory is slightly up, with an approximately 2.4-month supply, properties are active on the market an average of 44 days, Ares said, down from 56 days last May.

“The multiple-offer mania has subsided somewhat here, but I wouldn’t call it a buyer’s market just yet,” Ares said.

Editor’s note: Some blog entries were edited for length and other considerations.

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