Brant Truman of Kennewick recognizes that he should buy a home before historically low interest rates begin to rise.
He and his wife Whitney began looking for their first home last month after moving to the Tri-Cities in September from Rexburg, Idaho.
Truman isn't the only one who believes now is the time to buy. Windermere Real Estate/Tri-Cities just reported its best May for homes going under contract since it opened in 1993, said Dave Retter, Windermere Real Estate/Tri-Cities owner and broker.
"More people are looking to make a move right now," Retter said.
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In the first four months of this year, 835 home sales closed, which was down by about 38 homes from last year but was 49 homes more than in 2009, Retter said.
Nationwide, home sales are up about10 percent in April from where they were in 2011, according to the National Association of Realtors. The national median sale price also jumped by about 10 percent in April compared with the same month last year.
"We are not gaining sales as other parts of the country," said Paul Roy, managing broker with Coldwell Banker Tomlinson Associated Brokers of Kennewick. "That's to be expected because we did not have the declines that the other parts of the country did."
But the Tri-Cities remains a stable home market, Roy said.
Move-up buyers are joining first-time home buyers in the hunt for a new home, Retter said.
And with historically low mortgage rates and current home prices, now is the time to look, he said.
Move-up buyers was a component missing from the market since 2008, Retter said. When those homeowners buy a new home, it opens their old home up for first-time home buyers.
There are a lot of buyers looking for homes under $250,000 right now, he said.
But Roy said while there are more sellers, he still isn't seeing many first-time home buyers or first-time sellers.
Nationally, consumer confidence appears lower than first was hoped, he said.
There is a lot of competition among sellers, especially for $200,000 homes and above, Roy said.
"Buyers are expecting sellers to deal," he said.
Still, the Tri-Cities market has stayed relatively stable, with the average sale price increasing, Roy said.
For the first four months of the year, the average sale price was $196,112 compared with $194,101 for the same months last year, Retter said.
The median sale price was $179,900 through April for this year, compared with $171,000 last year, he said.
Truman, 28, who works for Syngenta Seeds in Pasco, said there have been plenty of homes to consider in the $140,000 to $160,000 price range his family has budgeted for. But they are taking their time to find what they want for themselves and their 6-month-old daughter, Taylee. "We know what we are looking for," Truman said.
One home has caught his interest, and work on the price continues, Truman said.
Truman said he would suggest those interested in buying begin by looking on their own and then find a good real estate agent.
Not all is golden in the Tri-City housing market, though. Builders have applied for fewer building permits for new single-family home starts in the Tri-Cities this year compared to last year. The number of building permits represents a 25 percent drop from last year.
In the first four months of this year, 384 permits were issued for new homes, compared with 515 last year, according to the Home Builders Association of Tri-Cities.
West Richland is the only city to see more new homes permitted through April, at 50 compared to 47 last year.
-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; firstname.lastname@example.org