The Current State of Real EstateYou may have heard on your local TV news that the housing market in the country is picking up. Supporting that conclusion is the number of for-sale signs that have been sprouting in the neighborhoods around you, many with a home warranty offer. Zillow, the well-known real-estate website, offers some hard numbers on the current state of real estate.

It reveals that, as of April 2015, the median home value in the USA is $178,400, which is an increase of 3.9 percent over the past year. Values are predicted to go up by 2.6 percent in the coming year. These numbers relate to the values of all homes in the country, whether they are on the market or are not for sale.

Helping to push up prices is the median rent list price of $1,529 per month, or $1.12 per square foot. Rents across the country have been increasing in fits and spurts since a low of $1,210 on December 2010. At the current rental costs, it takes only 1.8 years before buying a home gives a greater financial advantage than renting.

Zillow also reveals that the median sale price of a home in the USA is $206,936, which equals $124 per square foot. This is an increase over the April 2014 median of about $173,000. (The website had no data on the median list price.)

When compared to other industries the housing market is doing quite well (car loans have seen a rise in missed payments recently.) The USA market is considered quite healthy with only 16.9 percent of homes having negative equity and 6.3 percent of homeowners being delinquent on their mortgages. The rate of foreclosures per 10,000 is 3.0. A home spends an average of 116 days on Zillow before being sold.

CNN reports that for sellers, the top five cities with the fastest moving housing markets are all located in California. San Francisco ranks first, even though its median asking price of $1,099,000 is one of the highest in the nation. Only 26 percent of homes here remain on sale after two months as of April 2015. This is very similar to the April 2014 amount of 28 percent. Helping to support the fast sales and high prices is the low amount of construction because of stringent building regulations and hilly topography.

The other top cities and their percentages for sale after two months include San Jose and Oakland with 30 percent each, San Diego with 33 percent and Orange County with 41 percent.

For sellers competing in these hot markets, pricing the home correctly based on current comps can be the key to a fast sale. Staging a home to look spacious and modern is almost a necessity to stand out from among the competition. A housing warranty can remove any doubts from a buyers’ mind about potential defects in the property they are about to purchase.

For buyers the best housing markets have homes staying for sale longer, allowing for more bargaining and price cuts. CNN reports that the top five markets for those looking for a home are Philadelphia, Chicago, Cleveland, Miami-Fort Lauderdale and Providence, Rhode Island. In these cities, homes typically sell for 4 percent less than the average list price and stay on the market for 43 days longer than in the top sellers markets. These cities usually have growth slowdowns and don’t experience booms in jobs for energy and technology.

Relying on the services of their own real estate agent can give buyers the advantage. A home inspection is a necessary contingent to ensure that a potential purchase is not hiding a costly repair. Requesting a housing warranty that is paid for by the seller can cover any problems that may appear after closing.

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