Editor’s note: This article is reposted with permission of Zillow. View the original item: "Best Places to Buy in 2012." Median list prices for each metro are from Realtor.com. And please note: There are slight discrepancies between Zillow’s and Realtor.com‘s metro delineations. Please check each site for precise metro info.

By Jill Simmons

The 2012 buying and selling season is well under way and the housing market is finally showing signs of life. Agents are sharing stories of bidding wars in many markets as buyers are getting off the fence, ready to capitalize on still-record-low levels of affordability.

So, is now really a good time to buy? In many markets, yes, and some places are better markets for buyers than others.

Knowing that some people might still be wary of dipping their toes in the real estate market, we looked at the places where it makes a lot of sense to buy if you live there. To determine our Best Places to Buy in 2012 list, we gave equal weight to several factors including:

  • housing prices compared to local incomes.
  • home value trends (where home values have been stabilizing or rising over the past year and past quarter).
  • unemployment rates and the change in unemployment rates over the past year.
  • whether buying makes more sense than renting.

One caveat: Just because your city didn’t rise to the top of our list doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy there. If you’re planning to live in your home at least five to seven years and have good credit, now can be a great time to buy in many markets. Median list prices and Zillow Home Value Index values are as of April 2012.

Location: Grand Rapids, Mich.

 

Median list price $139,900
Zillow Home Value Index $108,000

Downtown Grand Rapids, Mich., via Shutterstock.

Home values are on the upswing in Grand Rapids, Mich., increasing on a monthly, quarterly and yearly basis, according to Zillow’s Home Value Index (ZHVI). Home values are up 4.8 percent from April last year. The median home value is $108,000, which compares favorably with median incomes in the area. The unemployment picture is also improving in Grand Rapids, falling nearly 2 percent this past year.

Grand Rapids best places

843 Mayhew Wood Drive SE, Grand Rapids, Mich., 49507
ZHVI: $108,000
For sale: $129,900

This updated Alger Heights home is in an established neighborhood and has three beds, two baths and is 1,551-square-feet big. A renovated kitchen has maple cabinets and granite tile counters. The flooring features natural slate, hardwood and newer carpeting.

…CONTINUED

Location: Phoenix

 

Median list price $184,900
Zillow Home Value Index $130,600

Image of the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix via Shutterstock.

Phoenix is a poster child for the housing recession. Home values have fallen a whopping 54 percent since the peak of the market. Currently, the metro is still working through high levels of foreclosure inventory; foreclosure resales made up 28 percent of all sales in April. This is actually good news, because it signals that investors are coming in droves to scoop up homes.

All of this investor activity is starting to boost home values. Not only are Phoenix home values up, Zillow forecasts them to rise 6.5 percent this year. "Phoenix is probably the best example of a hard-hit market that is showing signs of recovery," said Stan Humphries, Zillow’s chief economist.

Phoenix, AZ best places

4818 W. Gwen St., Laveen, Ariz., 85339
ZHVI: $130,600
For sale: $150,000

No need to worry about the grass growing or dying from the intense Arizona heat in this home. The huge backyard contains artificial grass, plus has a built-in spa, barbecue, surround sound and fireplace. There’s plenty of space inside, too, with 3,317 square feet of living space, including four bedrooms and three baths. It just recently underwent a price cut of $15,000.

…CONTINUED

Location: Pittsburgh, Pa.

 

Median list price $140,000
Zillow Home Value Index $107,800

Downtown Pittsburgh skyline via Shutterstock.

Home values in Pittsburgh have been rising for the past year, making it one of the better-performing markets in the country. In fact, 87 percent of homes there sold for a gain in April — the highest rate in the country.

Pittsburgh best places

1216 Ingham St., Pittsburgh, Pa., 1521
ZHVI: $107,800
For sale: $119,900

It might have been built circa 1929, but this grand, old home on a tree-lined street has been freshened up with new paint and updated with new windows, doors, tile and hardwood floors, glass block and back splash, also a new roof and garage.

…CONTINUED

Location: Oklahoma City

 

Median list price $152,500
Zillow Home Value Index $108,200

View of the South Agnew Bridge at sunset in Oklahoma City via Shutterstock.

Home values rose 4.9 percent in Oklahoma City this past year and the unemployment rate is one of the lowest on our list at 5.1 percent and falling. While some markets on our list represent those that are showing signs of life after suffering from years of falling home values, Oklahoma City stands out as a beacon of stability — 80 percent of homes in April sold for a gain.

Oklahoma City best places

8617 S. Kentucky Ave., Oklahoma City, Okla., 73159
ZHVI: $108,200
For sale: $114,900

Neatly groomed, trimmed and cared for, this Oklahoma City home has an updated kitchen with new countertops, backsplash, stainless steel appliances, and cabinets. Walls in all rooms have been textured and freshly painted. The living room features cathedral ceilings and book shelves.

…CONTINUED

Location: Rochester, N.Y.

 

Median list price $139,900
Zillow Home Value Index $117,100

Rochester, N.Y., skyline via Shutterstock.

Rochester, N.Y., has been another steady performer throughout the housing crisis, and, while home values are down slightly for the year, values are rising on a monthly and quarterly basis. Rochester scored especially high in the price-to-rent category.

It takes 7.3 years of rent to buy a similar home in Rochester, compared with the national average of 10.4. Buyers also have some negotiating room; 40 percent of listings had price cuts and 80 percent of homes sold for a gain in April.

rochester best places

50 Navarre Road, Rochester, N.Y., 14621
ZHVI: $117,100
For sale: $129,900

This three-bed, 2.5-bath cheery yellow Colonial home offers 1,860 square feet of living space and is located on a tree-lined street across from the Seneca Park Zoo. Charming details include leaded glass on windows and doors, hardwood floors, moldings and French doors to enclosed porch.

…CONTINUED

Location: Dallas

 

Median list price $200,000
Zillow Home Value Index $121,600

Downtown Dallas via Shutterstock.

Dallas made our list with a high score in the affordability category. Home prices are 5 percent below their historical average, even though home values have performed much better than most of the country, falling 15 percent from their peak. Buyers in Dallas also get good bang for their buck; the median value per square foot in Dallas is $65, compared with $92 for the nation.

Dallas best places

6050 Fox Point Trail, Dallas, Texas, 75249
ZHVI: $121,600
For sale: $125,000

This traditional three-bed, 2.5-bath home is on the Southwest Dallas real estate market. Kitchen includes granite countertops, stone backsplashes, a black undermount sink and cherrywood cabinets. Upstairs bedrooms include huge, Texas-size master suite and bath with sitting area, jetted tub and large shower.

…CONTINUED

Location: Memphis, Tenn.

 

Median list price $149,900
Zillow Home Value Index $96,000

Downtown Memphis, Tenn., via Shutterstock.

Couple stable home values with affordability, and it’s good to be a buyer in Memphis, Tenn. Buyers also get a lot of house for their money in Memphis — the median value per square foot is $60. For comparison’s sake, the median value per square foot in Honolulu is $405 (granted you get to live in Hawaii, but still!)

Memphjs best places

5604 Jamestown Ave., Memphis, Tenn., 38115
ZHVI: $96,000
For sale: $120,000

If you love Colonial Williamsburg, you’ll love this home, which offers period touches and includes four beds, two baths and 2,728 square feet of space. The den includes a fireplace for those cold Memphis winter nights.

…CONTINUED

Location: Dayton, Ohio

 

Median list price $109,900
Zillow Home Value Index $91,000

Downtown Dayton, Ohio, skyline with surrounding neighborhoods via Shutterstock.

Home prices compare favorably to incomes in Dayton, Ohio, and affordable homes mean buying makes more sense than renting. Thirty-eight percent of listings had a price cut in April, so buyers also have some negotiation room as well.

dayton best places

1443 E. 4th St., Dayton, Ohio, 45402
ZHVI: $91,000
For sale: $119,900

This 2,482-squarte-foot home in the St. Anne’s Historic district has been updated and includes three beds and two baths. The living room features an antique carved mantle and a gas fireplace. Both the living room and dining room have hardwood floors and wide woodwork.

More from Zillow "Eye Candy":

Copyright 2012 Zillow

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