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Fewer houses for sale in county; demand steady
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The inventory of homes for sale in Stanislaus County is down sharply year-over-year, demand is flat, and prices are beginning to rise.

That's good news to underwater sellers, many of whom will be able to avoid short sales as the market recovers.

Kris Klair, owner/broker with Exit Realty, said some properties in the area have seen as much as a 10 percent increase in value in the last three months. That pushes property values above many homeowners' outstanding debts, allowing them to conduct standard sales.

"We're seeing a lot of normal sales that are coming back on the market," Klair said. "... We've already hit the bottom about four months ago."

In June 2011, 1,540 homes were listed for sale in Stanislaus County, per real estate tracking service Metrolist. In 12 months that figure dropped 59.6 percent, with just 622 homes for sale in June 2012.

Though supply is decreasing, demand has remained relatively constant; 669 Stanislaus County homes were sold in June 2011, and 605 were sold in June 2012.

Homes aren't staying on the market for long, according to the California Association of Realtors, averaging 43.4 days on the market in June, down from 50.4 days a year ago. Homes move even more quickly in Stanislaus County, averaging 28.6 days on the market.

"Potential home buyers are frustrated by limited number of homes on the market for sale," said CAR President LeFrancis Arnold.

Home prices are up as a result, with statewide median home prices posting month-over-month and year-over-year gains for the fourth consecutive month in June. The statewide median price of an existing, single-family detached home was $320,540 in June, up 1.3 percent from May, 8.1 percent from June 2011, and 30.7 percent higher than the cycle's low in February 2009.

The falling supply, flat demand, and rising prices are driving builder confidence, according to the National Association of Home Builders Wells Fargo Housing Market Index. The confidence score jumped six points to 35 in July - the largest one month gain in nearly a decade, returning the index to its highest point since March 2009.

"Builder confidence increased by solid margins in every region of the country in July as views of current sales conditions, prospects for future sales and traffic of prospective buyers all improved," said Barry Rutenberg, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders and a home builder from Gainesville, Fla. "This is greater evidence that the housing market has turned the corner as more buyers perceive the benefits of purchasing a newly built home while interest rates and prices are so favorable."