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  • Home prices are looking up

    Home prices around the nation have started to rebound.

    Home prices are starting to climb across the country.The median sales price of U.S. residential properties jumped 4 percent to $172,000 from March to April, according to RealtyTrac.

    The rise was an 11 percent increase from April 2013, which is the biggest year-over-year increase since the nation's median prices bottomed out in March 2012. Those figures include both distressed and non-distressed properties.

    "U.S. median home prices have now increased 21 percent since hitting bottom in March 2012, although they are still 28 percent below their pre-recession peak of $237,537 in August 2006," said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. "There are a surprising number of markets, however, where median home prices have surpassed their previous peaks since the Great Recession ended in June 2009."

    Oklahoma County was 10.2 percent above the recession median home price peak, one of the top marks for any county around the country.

    "We are starting to exceed pre-recession levels in all categories of the market in Oklahoma," said Sheldon Detrick, CEO of Prudential Detrick/Alliance Realty. "Home value appreciation continues to rise despite a continued lack of available inventory."

    Pending sales also up
    After plodding home sales depressed the market during the first quarter of 2014, pending sales have risen for the second straight month in April, according to the National Association of Realtors. The Pending Home Sales Index reported that contract signings jumped 0.4 percent to 97.8 in April, though that's still 9.2 percent below April 2013 when the index reached 107.7.

    But the consecutive months of improvements have given some hope to the market.

    "Higher inventory levels are giving buyers more choices, and a slight decline in mortgage interest rates this spring is raising prospective home buyers' confidence," said Lawrence Yun, chief economist of NAR. "An uptrend in closed sales is expected, although some months will encounter a modest setback."

    NAR reported that April gains in the Midwest and Northeast made amends for drops recorded in the South and West.

    In the Midwest, the index jumped 5.0 percent to 99.2 in April. Yet that is still 6.9 percent under its total from April 2013. The index in the Northeast climbed 0.6 percent to 79.3 in April, 12.0 percent below its total from the same month in 2013.

    "April home sales numbers are exhibiting the continued effects of low supply and still-strong demand that exist in many markets across the country," Blomquist said.

Pending home sales in the South dropped 0.6 percent to an index of 111.9 in April, 6.4 percent under what it was a year ago. The index in the West fell 2.9 percent in April to 88.4, posting the biggest year-over-year drop - 15.0 percent - from April 2013.

    2015 could be a big year
    NAR reported that the slow first quarter will likely keep the entire sales total of 2014 below its numbers from last year when 5.1 million homes were closed. But NAR expects 2015 will be a big year, with possibly 5.3 million homes to be sold.

    NAR said the national median existing-home price will increase between 5 and 6 percent this year, and in the range of 4 to 5 percent in 2015, which should spur more people into the market. Mortgage rates are also predicted to climb, as Yun said the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage will jump to an average of 5.5 percent in 2015.

    "The extent to which higher mortgage interest rates will impact housing affordability and sales depends on income growth, ongoing improvement in the labor market and any change to mortgage underwriting conditions," Yun said.