LKRE Press Release: New Agent Announcement

 

Lake Keowee Real Estate is excited to welcome new agent Reah Smith to the team!  Reah has worked in real estate since 2010 in the areas of residential sales support, commercial sales support, residential property management and commercial property management. 

Born and raised in Seneca, SC, Reah attended Seneca High School and went on to study at the University of South Carolina.   In 2007 Reah graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Retailing.  Returning to the Upstate after graduation Reah began her career in management in big box retail and gained well rounded experience in customer service.

Understanding the ever changing technology landscape in the real estate industry is one of Reah’s strongest abilities.  She is focused and driven will be an asset to the team at Lake Keowee Real Estate.

Reah also competes in the NHRA Summit Series at Atlanta Dragway in the motorcycle points division.  Lake Keowee Real Estate has proudly sponsored her in the all women race team, Slick-Wicked, for 2 years now.  We are excited as she now formally joins Lake Keowee Real Estate both on and off the race track!

 

Home building on the rise?

By NORMAN CANNADA
THE JOURNAL
Local officials said they are seeing more signs of confidence in the Oconee County housing market as building permits for new homes and other construction rise to the highest levels in five years.

The new Seneca Heights Townhomes site in Seneca is one of many places across Oconee County where construction work is currently underway. Building permits for new homes as well all construction permits are currently at their highest number since 2009.

“Last year it took off good and then it kind of stalled,” said Russ Price, executive director of the Oconee County Home Builders Association. “This year it doesn’t seem to be tapering off. I was actually talking to people who design homes and they said their clients who were talking about building in two to three years are now talking about building this year. For this time of year, we’re doing pretty good.”
Building permits for new homes in Oconee County in 2013 totaled 123 through Tuesday, the most since 124 new home permits were issued in the first six months of 2009.
Last year, 98 new home permits had been issued in Oconee County through June. The number is nearly twice the 63 permits issued for new homes in 2011.
Total building permits reached 730 on Tuesday – the first time during the same time period since 2008 when 939 permits were issued in the first six months of the year.
“We continue to be encouraged by the increase in permitting we are seeing thus far in 2013,” said Josh Stephens, Oconee County zoning administrator. “We are anticipating a good summer in terms of residential permitting.”
Stephens said he is also encouraged by the increased interest from builders in beginning subdivisions.
He said four or five subdivisions are currently in various stages of the review process with the county. None have been approved yet, which he said is not unusual for this time of year.
“That’s a good sign,” said Price. “We have a couple of places where we need some subdivisions.”
While the building permit numbers are improving, Price said he doesn’t see the numbers moving back to 2007 levels before the economic downturn when 354 new home permits and 1,080 total construction permits were issued in the first six months.
“This last one hit us really hard; I don’t foresee it getting to that level,” Price said. “At that point, we had spec builders that would start a house and they would have it sold before they even got halfway through.”
Stephens said he is also encouraged by more commercial building in the county, including recently approved projects at Duke Energy.

ncannada@upstatetoday.com | (864) 973-6684
Follow on Twitter @NormCannada

Lake Keowee Real Estate Press Release

LKRE Press Release

Lake Keowee Real Estate has partnered with Team Slick-Wicked All Female Drag Racing to become a sponsor for the 2013 race season.  Team Slick-Wicked consists of 2 motorcycle drag racers, Angie Young and Reah Smith, a Chevy Custom Drag Truck racer Donna Carmen Blackwell, two female crew chiefs, and two motorcycle riders in apprenticeship.

The ladies of Team Slick-Wicked are competing in the NHRA Summit Racing Equipment Points Series at Atlanta Dragway.  Created 9 years ago by founder Angie Young, the term “slick wicked” was first used to describe a custom automotive paint finish she created.   The finish has the look and texture of snake skin and is featured on the Chevy Custom Drag Truck.

Off the track the team is involved in their own charity initiatives including Slick-Wicked Treats for Troops where donations are collected to send to our servicemen and women overseas and Slick-Wicked Tools 4 School Supply drive to help prepare children for the school year.  The team also participates in many of the local charity group rides and has held supply drives for Foothills Alliance.

Learn more about Team Slick-Wicked via the links to their social media:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Slick-Wicked

Twitter: @Slick_Wicked

 

Angie Color head shot 2.jpg    atldragway.jpg  LKRE Head shot.jpg

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U.S. Home Prices In April Jumped Most in 7 Years

 

By The Associated Press | Posted Jun 4th 2013 11:00AM

Updated Jun 4th 2013 12:01PM
By Christopher S. Rugaber
WASHINGTON — U.S. home prices soared 12.1 percent in April from a year earlier, the biggest gain since February 2006, as more buyers competed for fewer homes. Real estate data provider CoreLogic says prices rose in April from the previous April in 48 states. Prices also rose 3.2 percent in April from March, much better than the previous month-to-month gain of 1.9 percent.Prices in Nevada jumped 24.6 percent from a year earlier, the most among the states. California’s gain was next at 19.4 percent, followed by Arizona’s 17.3 percent, Hawaii’s 17 percent and Oregon’s 15.5 percent. More people are looking to purchase homes. But the number of homes for sale is 14 percent lower than it was a year ago. The supply shortage has contributed to the price increases.

Rising home prices can help sustain the housing recovery. They encourage more homeowners to sell. And they spur would-be homeowners to buy before prices increase further. Home sales and prices began to recover last year, six years after the housing bust. They have been buoyed by steady job gains and low mortgage rates.

Sales of previously occupied homes ticked up to a 3½ year high in April, according to the National Association of Realtors. And they are likely to keep growing: A measure of signed contracts to buy homes rose to its highest level in three years in April. There is generally a one- to two-month lag between a signed contract and a completed sale.

The limited supply of homes has also made builders more willing to ramp up construction. That’s creating more construction jobs. Applications for building permits rose in April to the highest level in nearly five years.

Prices rose in April from the previous year in 94 out of the 100 largest U.S. cities, CoreLogic said. That’s up from 88 in the previous month. Los Angeles and Phoenix reported the biggest price gains among the cities, CoreLogic said. Prices in both cities leaped 19.2 percent compared with a year earlier.

They were followed by Atlanta and Riverside-San Bernardino, which both posted 16.5 percent gains. Dallas rounded out the top five, with a 10.2 percent increase. Despite the large gains, home prices are more than 22 percent below their April 2006 peak, the CoreLogic survey found. In Nevada, they are still 47.3 percent below their peak, and in Florida, prices are 40.5 percent below their peak.

4 Big Drivers of the Housing Market Recovery

DAILY REAL ESTATE NEWS | THURSDAY, MAY 23, 2013

The Wall Street Journal highlighted four primary reasons why the housing market recovery is strong. They are:

  • Sales have made big leaps from year-over-year levels. Existing-home sales are up 9.7 percent compared to one year ago. Sales are at an annual rate of 4.97 million, which is the highest level since November 2009, according to NAR. Despite constrained inventories and recent price gains, home sales continue to post increases.
  • Non-distressed home sales are increasing. Home buyers are showing high demand for non-distressed homes. In April, about 18 percent of sales were in foreclosure or a short sale — down from 28 percent year-over-year.
  • Inventories have increased. In April, the number of homes for sale rose 11.9 percent from March. The limited supply — mixed with rising buyer demand — has helped home prices to rise around 10 percent year-over-year. “Rising inventory should ultimately slow some of the price rally while boosting sales volumes, helping to restore equilibrium in the housing market,” The Wall Street Journal reports.
  • Homes are selling a lot quicker. About half of all homes that were sold in April were on the market for 46 days, down from 83 days one year earlier, according to NAR data.

Source: “Four Reasons Why Home Sales Are Looking Healthy,” The Wall Street Journal (May 22, 2013)

How to be the Most Attractive Homebuyer

The spring season tends to flood the housing market with buyers, and in markets with low inventory levels, the competition is stiff.

As home prices continue to recover and interest rates remain at near-record lows, some houses are receiving multiple offers and to win the bid, buyers need to stand out from the crowd. According to the National Association of Realtors, houses sold in 71 days in January, down from 99 days a year ago.

Since markets are moving fast, experts recommend sellers have their loan pre-approved and down payment ready before starting their search.  “The market is changing,” says Cara Ameer, broker associate and Realtor at Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty based in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. “Inventory is low and demand is high—a buyer needs to know exactly what their parameters are.”

Multiple bids are becoming the norm, so be ready to compete and do your homework to seal the deal. The longer the negotiations, the more chance you could lose out to someone else who made a better offer, says Ameer. Be reasonable without being difficult because until an offer is signed, sealed and delivered, other buyers can bid on the property.

While you have to compete in the current market, maintain your budget. “You don’t want to end up paying more for the house than it’s worth,” says Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.

Experts warn against cutting corners like skipping the inspection or engaging in a bidding war. You don’t want to unduly stretch yourself just to get into a property,” says Blomquist.

To help you become a homeowner in this competitive market, experts recommend the following tips for being the most attractive:

Plan Ahead

“You have to plan four months before you’re going to buy,” says Michael Corbett, Trulia’s real estate expert. Check your credit for accuracy and avoiding making any big purchases or taking on any big debt during this time.

“[Debt] brings down your credit score and increases your debt-to-income [ratio] which are two critical things banks look at when qualifying and preapproving you for a loan,” says Corbett.

If your debt-to-income ratio is too high, experts recommend paying down as much debt as you can to lower this ratio.

Set Your Home Price

“Don’t look at a $300,000 home if all you can afford is $250,000,” says Ameer. Less supply on the market increases the likelihood for multiple offers, and you won’t be able to compete. “If properties are selling at 95% of asking price, don’t think you’ll get a deal at 85% of asking price,” she says.

If you do spot a great deal on a house, don’t wait days to make an offer, warns Corbett. Since time isn’t on your side, learn how to spot a great deal by researching an area’s home prices.

“Do a little due diligence and go to open houses—do your homework,” says Corbett. Being educated will help you negotiate and could prevent you from paying more for a house than it’s actually worth because you’re emotionally involved.

Know that Cash is King

The more cash you have, the more appealing you are as a buyer. Putting 20% or more down makes you look more financially stable and gives sellers comfort that you’ll qualify for a mortgage, says Corbett.

Cash can cover a multitude of problems when you make an offer, whether it’s difficulty with the mortgage process or a lower-than-expected appraisal. “A buyer can contribute more cash to cover the different between the appraisal and offer price,” says Blomquist.

If your appraisal is low, don’t expect the appraiser to come up in value, says Ameer. “Appraisers are under scrutiny with the banks and they have to justify everything they do.” They’re required to follow Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) guidelines, as well as lender guidelines.

Appraisers use surrounding properties for comps, says Ameer, and if there are only foreclosures, that’s a bad hand to be dealt. You can always review the appraisal for discrepancies and suggest different comps but don’t expect the value to change.

Get Preapproved before Your Search

Getting prequalified for a mortgage gives a ballpark for what you can afford to buy and will streamline your search process.

If you’re financing your house with a mortgage, have a pre-approval letter with you and if you’re paying cash, have proof of funds that shows you’re good for it.

Getting preapproved will also help you to compete with an all cash buyer, says Walter Molony, spokesperson for the National Association of Realtors.

When you know what you can afford and are preapproved, you won’t be shopping outside of your price range, says Corbett. “It makes you a much stronger buyer when you can turn in that preapproval letter with your offer.”

Limit Your Contingencies

Experts suggest having as few contingencies as possible to be an alluring buyer. “Don’t overcomplicate your offer to the seller,” says Ameer. Certain contingencies based on your ability to get a mortgage, the appraisal and home inspection are standard, but piling on more could make the seller less inclined to work with your offer.

Experts advise making an offer based on a satisfactory home inspection. “It gives you the opportunity to walk away if you find in an inspection that there are too many problems with the house,” says Corbett.

Making your offer contingent on you selling your house first will make you a less appealing buyer. If you need to sell your house before buying a new one, then sell your home first and rent or move in with family or friends while you look for your new home, says Blomquist. “As a seller, you’ll sell that home quickly. Then as a buyer, you’re much more appealing than a buyer contingent on a sale.”

Add a Personal Touch

Corbett suggests sending a letter to explain why you want to buy that house. “You become a person who really loves and appreciates the home instead of just a number,” says Corbett. Sending a letter is just one extra little thing that will help level the playing field.

Be Flexible with Closing Dates

“Let the seller know that you would be flexible on the closing timeline,” says Corbett. Find out when the seller would ideally like to close on the house and see if you can match it.

Read more: http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2013/03/21/how-to-be-most-attractive-homebuyer/#ixzz2S3IEGEoj

by 

 

Published March 21, 2013

 

FOXBusiness

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home Sales Hit Fastest Pace In Three Years

The National Association of Realtors indicates that the sale of previously owned homes hit a three-year high in February, a sign the economy is definitely on the mend. However, it’s not too late to join the party. Here are several ideas I believe will allow you to benefit from this ongoing housing trend while also limiting your downside.

Breaking Down The ETF

The easiest way to benefit from an improving real estate market is to invest in an ETF that captures many of the companies participating in that growth. You’ve likely heard this story before given the success of homebuilders in the past year. Up till now it had been a housing recovery led by new home construction. The latest stats about previously owned homes would seem to indicate the same is happening with resales. Realtors have to be very happy about the news.

The two biggest funds in terms of assets under management are the SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF (ARCA:XHB) with $2.8 billion and the iShares U.S. Home Construction ETF (ARCA:ITB) with $2.4 billion. Both have a similar number of stocks with the XHB holding 37 companies to 29 for the ITB. That’s where they go their separate ways. The ITB over the past year through March 20 has achieved a total return of 66.4% compared to 44.3% for the XHB. There’s a simple explanation… the ITB portfolio is 65% invested in homebuilders while the XHB is more diversified with just 29% allocated to them. Over the last three years, the two funds have achieved almost identical returns with the XHB’s being slightly less volatile. For this reason and the fact I favor equal weighted ETFs over those that are capitalization weighted (cap-weighted funds tend to get overweighted in the top 10 holdings), of the two I’d go with the XHB.

Betting On Resales

As the February numbers indicate, resale housing is picking up. The temptation is strong to own companies that invest in residential mortgages; the easiest way to do this is through the Market Vectors Mortgage REIT Income ETF (ARCA:MORT), which tracks the performance of publicly traded mortgage REITs. The current SEC 30-day yield for MORT is 9.94% and its year-to-date return through March 20 is 15.3%. While awfully enticing, this kind of yield doesn’t come without risk.

Real estate advisor Brad Thomas in a January article for Seeking Alpha said this about mortgage REITs: “During the last rising rate cycle (2003-2005), short-term interest rates rose and the yield curve went negative – alas, mortgage REITs went in the ditch. During that period, yields went from 15% to 4% (dividend cuts) and total returns, in the same period, were around negative 30%.” While the likelihood of short-term interest rates rising tomorrow or the next day is non-existent, they will eventually go up. When they do, look out below. For this reason I’d pass on mREITs.

The best and safest bet on the single family residential market in my opinion is to buy shares in The Blackstone Group (NYSE:BX), the New York-based private equity firm run by Stephen Schwarzman. Through its real estate platform, Invitation Homes, it has purchased 20,000 single family homes primarily in Florida, Arizona and California. Spending $3.5 billion, it will fix them up, rent them out and eventually sell them off for a profit. It’s not the only big institution investing in residential real estate. However, its diversity of assets, which includes brands such as Jack Wolfskin, Hilton Hotels, Sea World, Orangina and many others, makes it the least risky in my opinion.

The Ultimate ETF

The best part about owning this investment is you don’t have to pay a management fee. It’s the cheapest ETF going. Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.B), while known for its insurance businesses, also has several housing related businesses in its stable including Clayton Homes (manufactured and modular homes), Shaw Industries (carpet, hardwood, etc.), Johns Manville (insulation, roofing), Benjamin Moore (paint) and Acme Brick.

Its most relevant business in the context of this article is Home Services of America, its real estatebrokerage that last October announced it was uniting with Brookfield Asset Management’s (NYSE:BAM) brokerage; together they would operate as Berkshire Hathaway Home Services. The combined entity will have more than 1,700 offices across the U.S. Should the resale markets continue to improve, Berkshire Hathaway will definitely be in for a bigger payday.

Bottom Line

I’ve made several suggestions about how to play the continuing improvement in the housing market. However, in order to take advantage of Berkshire Hathaway’s diversification while also benefiting from an equally impressive rebound over the past year by the financial services sector, I’m recommending that you buy the Financial Select Sector SPDR Fund (ARCA:XLF), which has Berkshire Hathaway as its second largest holding with a weighting of 8.35%. The fund gives you good exposure to housing albeit in a very indirect way. Long-term, though, you’re providing yourself with greater downside protection.

At the time of writing, Will Ashworth did not own any shares in any of the companies mentioned.

by

Will Ashworth

Home prices: Biggest rise since housing bubble

Home prices continued their recovery, rising 8.1% in January, although a separate report showed a slight slowdown in new-home sales.

The S&P Case-Shiller index, which tracks the 20 largest markets in the nation, showed the biggest year-over-year gain in prices since June 2006.

“This marks the highest increase since the housing bubble burst,” said David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices.

Related: 5 best markets to buy a home

In a separate government report Tuesday, new homes sold at a 411,000 annual rate in February, down nearly 5% from the January sales pace but up 12% from year-earlier levels. The typical price of a new home sold in the month was $246,800, up about 3% from both the January and a year earlier.

Joseph LaVorgna, chief U.S. economist for Deutsche Bank, said that bad weather in February could be partly responsible for the slowdown in sales. But he said market fundamentals suggest that the market for new-home sales should remain strong.

“Despite the pullback in sales in February, the uptrend in housing remains clearly intact,” he said. He is forecasting even stronger sales in the second half of this year.

The Case-Shiller report shows the recovery in home prices is widespread. All 20 markets posted a year-over-year gain, and the pace of increase picked up in every market except Detroit.

Some of the markets hurt the most by the bursting of the housing bubble have enjoyed the biggest gains, led by a 23% rise in Phoenix. Prices were also up more than 10% in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Detroit, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Los Angeles and Miami, all markets that had been hit hard by foreclosures.

New York posted the smallest rise, up only 0.7%.

Even with the recent rise in home prices, the overall index is down 28.4% from the 2006 peak.

Related: Big money betting big on housing

But experts say they see a lot of strength in the current market.

“The market still has a long way to go nationally, but the healing process — and a return to a normalized housing market — is definitely well underway,” said Jim Baird, chief investment officer for Plante Moran Financial Advisors.

Home prices have been helped in recent months by a number of factors, including tight inventory of homes available for sale, near record-low mortgage rates and a drop in homes in foreclosure. A decline in unemployment is also helping the housing recovery.

The housing recovery itself is helping support overall economic growth, as builders scramble to hire workers to meet the renewed demand. The lift goes beyond the impact of increased construction on the economy, as the rise in home prices lifts household wealth.

Rising home prices also reduce the number of people owing more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. That, in turn, can help them to refinance those loans at a lower rate, freeing up money to spend on other goods and services.

To top of pageBy Chris Isidore @CNNMoney March 26, 2013: 11:26 AM ET

 

 

 

 

Existing-Home Sales and Prices Continue to Rise in February

WASHINGTON (March 21, 2013) – February existing-home sales and prices affirm a healthy recovery is underway in the housing sector, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Sales have been above year-ago levels for 20 consecutive months, while prices show 12 consecutive months of year-over-year price increases.

Total existing-home sales1, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, increased 0.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.98 million in February from an upwardly revised 4.94 million in January, and are 10.2 percent above the 4.52 million-unit level seen in February 2012. February sales were at the highest level since the tax credit period of November 2009.

Lawrence Yun , NAR chief economist, said conditions for continued housing improvement are at play. “Job growth in the improving economy and pent-up demand are causing both home sales and rental leasing to rise. Though home prices are rising much faster than rents, historically low mortgage rates are still making home purchases affordable,” he said. “The only headwinds are limited housing inventory, which varies greatly around the country, and credit conditions that remain too restrictive.”

Total housing inventory at the end of February rose 9.6 percent to 1.94 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 4.7-month supply 2 at the current sales pace, up from 4.3 months in January, which was the lowest supply since May 2005. Listed inventory is 19.2 percent below a year ago when there was a 6.4-month supply.

The national median existing-home price3 for all housing types was $173,600 in February, up 11.6 percent from February 2012. The last time there were 12 consecutive months of year-over-year price increases was from June 2005 to May 2006. The February gain is the strongest since November 2005 when it was 12.9 percent above a year earlier.

“A strong rise in home values is contributing to housing wealth recovery, which has risen by $1.4 trillion in the past year and looks to top that increase this year,” Yun said. “The extra consumer spending arising from growth in housing wealth is expected to be $70 billion to $110 billion this year.”

Distressed homes4 - foreclosures and short sales – accounted for 25 percent of February sales, up from 23 percent in January but down from 34 percent in February 2012. Fifteen percent of February sales were foreclosures, and 10 percent were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 18 percent below market value in February, while short sales were discounted 15 percent.

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage rose to 3.53 percent in February from 3.41 percent in January; it was 3.89 percent in February 2012.

NAR President Gary Thomas, broker-owner of Evergreen Realty in Villa Park, Calif., said interest rates remain extraordinarily low. “In the history of mortgage interest rates since 1971, the 30-year fixed rate has been below 4 percent in only 15 months, and those have all been in the past 15 months,” he said. “Even with rising home prices, affordability remains historically favorable because home prices over-corrected during the downturn. This means there is still great value for buyers in the current market.”

The median time on market for all homes was 74 days in February, which is 24 percent below 97 days in February 2012. Short sales were on the market for a median of 101 days, while foreclosures typically sold in 52 days and non-distressed homes took 77 days. One out of three homes sold in February was on the market for less than a month.

First-time buyers accounted for 30 percent of purchases in February, unchanged from January; they were 32 percent in February 2012.

All-cash sales were at 32 percent of transactions in February, up from 28 percent in January; they were 33 percent in February 2012. Investors, who account for most cash sales, purchased 22 percent of homes in February, up from 19 percent in January; they were 23 percent in February 2012.

“There was an upward bump in the shares of investor and all-cash closed purchases in February. These sales result from purchase offers during the holidays when shopping activity by traditional home buyers slows, but investors, who typically pay cash, remained active,” Yun said. “This is a seasonal pattern, but we’re now seeing a general increase in buyer traffic, which is 25 percent above a year ago.”

Single-family home sales slipped 0.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.36 million in February from an upwardly revised 4.37 million in January, but are 8.7 percent above the 4.01 million-unit pace in February 2012. The median existing single-family home price was $173,800 in February, which is 11.3 percent higher than a year ago.

Existing condominium and co-op sales rose 8.8 percent to an annualized rate of 620,000 in February from 570,000 in January, and are 21.6 percent above the 510,000-unit level a year ago. The median existing condo price was $172,500 in February, up 13.9 percent from February 2012.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast fell 3.1 percent to an annual rate of 630,000 in February but are 8.6 percent above February 2012. The median price in the Northeast was $238,800, which is 7.6 percent above a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest slipped 1.7 in February to a pace of 1.14 million but are 12.9 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $129,900, up 7.7 percent from February 2012.

In the South, existing-home sales increased 2.6 percent to an annual level of 2.01 million in February and are 14.9 percent above February 2012. The median price in the South was $150,500, up 9.3 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West rose 2.6 percent to a pace of 1.20 million in February and are 1.7 percent above a year ago. With limited choices and multiple bidding, the median price in the West rose to $237,700, which is 22.7 percent above February 2012.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries. For additional commentary and consumer information, visitwww.houselogic.com and http://retradio.com.

Walter Molony

Is It Safe to Sell Your House Now?

By RUTH SIMON

It might finally be time to come out of the basement.

Seven years after the housing market began to collapse, rising prices and thinner inventories are presenting new opportunities for home sellers. Some hot markets are even seeing multiple offers for the same property—a phenomenon rarely seen since the boom years—as buyers become more confident and seek to take advantage of today’s near-record-low mortgage rates.

Home prices nationally climbed 8.3% in December from the same period a year earlier, according to CoreLogicCLGX +2.11% a real-estate analytics company. The increase was the largest since May 2006 and the 10th consecutive monthly gain. The CoreLogic figures include foreclosures and other distressed sales.

The gains are good news for would-be sellers who have been stranded on the sidelines since home prices peaked in 2006. Nearly one in four homeowners and renters say now is a good time to sell a home, according to a survey released this month by Fannie Mae,FNMA +38.86% the government-backed mortgage company, up from 11% a year earlier.

“You will unambiguously see more people test the water,” says Thomas Lawler, an independent housing economist in Leesburg, Va. He expects home prices to rise another 3% this year.

Thinking about selling? You are likely to find a buyer more quickly and at a better price if you factor in local market conditions and recent sales before setting an asking price, burnish your home’s Internet profile and plan ahead for a home appraisal.

Acting soon may pay off as well. While trends vary by region, buyer search activity generally peaks in March and April, while seller listings peak in July, says Jed Kolko, chief economist at real-estate website Trulia.com. “Most sellers would be better off if they pushed the process up a couple of months,” he says.

Sellers could face headwinds if mortgage rates jump or the economy weakens, while the supply of homes for sale is likely to increase over the next few months, creating more competition, say real-estate agents.

Don’t expect to make a killing. Even after the recent gains, home prices remain about 27% below their 2006 highs, according to CoreLogic.

In some markets, prices remain so low that selling is likely to prove painful—unless you are looking to buy a more expensive home at a discount.

“The only reason I would sell today is if I wanted something more than I currently have,” says Craig Beggins, president of Century 21 Beggins Enterprises in Tampa Bay, Fla., where prices are still off more than 40% from their 2006 peak.

Still, in many markets, sellers have more of an edge than they have had in years. One big reason: The number of existing homes on the market dropped to 1.74 million in January, down 25% from a year earlier and the lowest level since December 1999, according to the National Association of Realtors.

The Wall Street Journal

Houses are also selling faster. The median number of days on the market for homes in January was 71, according to the Realtors group, meaning half of all homes sold within that time. That’s down from 99 days one year ago.

Elizabeth Tolli first put her 4,400-square-foot St. Petersburg, Fla., house up for sale in late 2009, but took the listing down a year later after not receiving any offers. She recently put it back on the market

“I feel more confident, even if prices aren’t at the height they were six or seven years ago,” says Ms. Tolli, who has set a $1.2 million asking price for the five-bedroom waterfront property. That is more than it would have fetched a year or two ago, she says, but still well below its peak value of more than $2 million.

If you are thinking of making a move, start by assessing conditions in your local market. Lanny Baker, chief executive of ZipRealtyZIPR -2.95% an online real-estate brokerage based in Emeryville, Calif., suggests focusing on five measures: price changes, the inventory of homes for sale, competition from foreclosures, the average time it takes a home to sell and the gap between selling prices and list prices.

In markets such as Las Vegas, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., “prices are up, competition is down, bank competition is down more, days on the market are shorter, and the prices being realized relative to the list price have really improved,” all good news for sellers, Mr. Baker says.

But sellers shouldn’t be complacent. Here are some steps to consider.

Interview multiple agents. Some people prefer to handle the selling process themselves. But if you plan to use a real-estate agent, start by interviewing several contenders.

Mr. Baker of ZipRealty suggests narrowing your search to agents who have handled many sales in your neighborhood. They are likely to have the best view of local market conditions and can better assess what your home may sell for and how it should be marketed, he says.

Nancy Vaske, a jewelry designer in Chicago, interviewed four brokers before putting her 1,800-square-foot condominium on the market this past week for an asking price of $995,000.

“I wanted to know whether they had sold any units in my building because it’s a specific market in the city, and whether they’ve represented the buyer or the seller,” she says.

The broker Ms. Vaske chose has represented both sellers and buyers in her building, and “probably knows more details about the workings of this building than most residents do,” she says.

Adjust your sights to today’s market. Set aside what you home might have fetched in 2006 and focus instead on what homes are selling for today.

Dan Elsea, president of Real Estate One in Detroit, uses recent sales as his guide, paying particular attention to properties that have received multiple offers. He prefers the homes he sells to be among the five lowest-priced properties among similar homes. “Typically, a buyer will see and remember five homes at a time,” he explains.

Pay attention to how long competing homes have been on the market. These days, well-priced homes often sell in a week or two, while homes that languish for months are typically priced at unrealistic levels.

Don’t overreach. Given today’s thin inventories, it is tempting to reach for the stars. But if you get greedy and set the price too high, you are likely to wind up in a downward spiral.

“You are going to have your largest viewing audience in your first days on the market, when the house is the newest product on the shelf,” says Lloyd Fox, a broker at Long Realty in Scottsdale, Ariz. If the price is too high, buyers and agents are likely to relegate your listing to the sidelines.

Properly priced homes are likely to get eight to 10 showings their first week on the market and an offer soon after, Mr. Fox says. If not, “you have missed the market” and it’s likely a price cut is in order, he adds.

Make the Internet work for you. Most home buyers and agents are now starting the search process online, which means it is important to make the Internet a key part of your marketing strategy. Begin by carefully selecting the photos you will post online.

For maximum impact, start with the photo “that is going to tell the best story of your home,” whether it’s the front view or a special feature, says Mr. Fox, the Scottsdale broker. Too many shots of a single room could bore buyers, he adds.

For Kenneth Vaughan’s Phoenix home, Mr. Fox started with a photo of the home’s exterior to show its “curb appeal,” followed by photos of the living room, kitchen, backyard and master bedroom and bathroom. The home, which is selling for $119,900, received three full-priced offers in the first week, says Mr. Vaughan, a retired police officer.

Factor in Internet searches when setting your listing price. Because most buyers tend to search in $25,000 or $50,000 increments, you can maximize your exposure by pricing your home at a round number, such as $400,000. That way the house will show up when buyers search for homes in the $350,000 to $400,000 range and for those priced at $400,000 to $450,000.

Weigh multiple offers carefully. In cases of multiple bidders, you should focus not just on price, but also on terms.

In comparing two competing bids at similar prices, Kristine Lambrecht, an agent at Real Estate One in Clarkston, Mich., recommends choosing the buyer who is putting down more cash or is willing to forgo an inspection, since those deals are likely to close sooner and with fewer hassles. If she thinks the appraisal will be lower than the sale price, she will take a slightly lower bid if the buyer is willing to guarantee the purchase price.

Clean up your act. Even in a market where inventories are thin, a home isn’t likely to sell if it looks shabby or crowded. At a minimum, you’ll need to touch up the paint, clean the carpet and pare your possessions.

Suzanne Peltier, who lives in Farmington Hills, Mich., hired a handyman to patch loose bricks and touch up the paint on her four-bedroom Colonial before putting it on the market. She also removed some of her furniture so the home looks bigger.

Julie Kaczor, a broker at Baird & Warner Real Estate in Chicago’s western suburbs, advises clients to get rid of magazine racks, statues, fireplace tools and anything else that can clutter up the edges of a room. She looks for inexpensive fixes with good payoffs, such as a fresh coat of paint, removing outdated window treatments or a carpet cleaning.

Ron Phipps, principal broker at Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I., often sends clients to other sellers’ open houses to size up the competition and get a better sense of how buyers may view their home. “It’s a good way to do counterintelligence,” he says. “It’s also a good way to see what works in terms of staging and presentation and what makes you uncomfortable.”

Plan ahead for the appraisal. About 30% of real-estate agents reported that low appraisals had resulted in the cancellation, delay or renegotiation of a purchase, according to a January survey by the National Association of Realtors.

You can reduce the chances you will encounter problems by providing the appraiser with examples of comparable sales and pointing out special features. Barbara Moody, an agent at Coldwell Banker United Realtors in Sugar Land, Texas, prepares a booklet for appraisers that includes examples of comparable sales, information about the home and receipts for substantial upgrades such as a swimming pool or kitchen renovation.

When a recent sale was almost torpedoed by a low valuation, Ms. Moody showed the appraiser comparable homes he had missed. The result: The appraiser raised his valuation by $7,000 to $129,000. The buyer and seller then split the difference between the appraised value and the $132,000 price they had initially agreed on.

Jan Baker, the home’s former owner, says the deal would have fallen through without the higher appraisal. “I would have had to have rented it again,” says Ms. Baker, a lawyer who purchased the home in 2005 for $136,900 and now lives in Midland, Texas.