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Signs of life in down market

Some markets see investor activity, multiple offers, price gains

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Paula Bean, an Orlando Realtor, says that many of the sellers who contact her these days owe more than they paid for their homes or are facing foreclosure. "Most of the leads I get are all upside down -- they bought at the wrong time in the market," Bean said, adding that about 90 percent of all e-mail and phone leads she receives are related to sellers who are facing the prospect of foreclosure or short sales. And the first question she hears from buyers: "'Is this a good time to buy? Are we at the bottom?' If I knew the answer I would have more money than Bill Gates and Warren Buffett put together." While many markets are feeling the weight of a housing downturn, there are some bright spots of activity even in markets with backpedaling prices and plummeting sales. Investors are active in the market, Bean said. "(They) are buying everything they can get their hands on. You can buy for 40 cents on the dollar." Some of the larger investment group...