The slight increase in Tri-City homes sold in 2012 has area real estate agents feeling positive about the coming year.
Homes sales grew by about 2 percent in 2012, reaching about 2,800 homes sold for the year.
Last year was comparable to 2011, with modest growth in homes sales and average sale prices, said Wayne Langford, president of the Tri-City Association of Realtors.
"It's almost like we found a new normal," he said.
Langford, a broker/Realtor with Windermere Real Estate/Tri-Cities, said having steady growth is good because it means the Tri-Cities avoids the huge spikes and drops other areas have experienced.
He anticipates growth will continue at a reasonable pace as the area continues to grow. Kennewick's Southridge and Richland's Badger Mountain areas are poised to grow.
And the steady growth of the Tri-City market will make the area continue to look good as markets recover in other areas and see higher home prices, said Paul Roy, managing broker with Coldwell Banker Tomlinson Associated Brokers of Kennewick.
Roy said he expects to see the momentum of 2012 continue during this year.
The national housing market was fairly strong at the end of the year, Roy said.
The Tri-Cities saw growth during the fourth quarter of 2012 when compared to the same time in 2011, representing about half of the increase from 2011 numbers, Roy said. That's typically the slowest quarter of the year for home sales.
Home prices showed solid growth, up about 1.6 percent from 2011, Langford said. The average price in 2011 was $202,500 and grew to $205,900 in 2012.
The Tri-Cities has an inventory of about five months, creating a balanced market, Langford said.
The market for homes priced at more than $350,000 still is suffering, with a lot of inventory to choose from, he said. That means good deals are out there for buyers, while sellers have to compete with the other homes for sale in that price range.
But Roy said he's seen some inventory shortages for homes priced under $250,000.
Some homeowners have put off selling their home and buying a new one, he said. That's meant those homes haven't been on the market for first-time buyers.
"It's getting harder and harder for that first-time home buyer to buy something new," Roy said.
That's because it's more difficult for builders and developers to build new affordable housing with increasing costs, including the price of raw land, he said.
Where homes were sold shifted slightly in 2012. Langford said Pasco's market share was about 4 percent less, with Kennewick and Richland each gaining 2 percent. That's based on fewer new homes being built in Pasco, he said.
New homes represented about 27 percent of the homes sold last year, he said.