A new year, a new market—or that’s the idea, at least. After a half-decade of real estate turbulence, a multitude of area real estate professionals are echoing the same idea: At the start of 2014, the market is moving in the right direction.

Jim Dohr, president of Coldwell Banker Gundaker, says that CBG currently has approximately six months of inventory, making the market quite evenhanded. As a rule of thumb, he says less than six months of inventory creates a seller’s market, while more formulates a buyer’s market. “I think this will start the year in a fairly balanced mode.”

Kevin Goffstein of Prudential Alliance Realtors predicts a higher number of units to be sold in the coming year. “It was an improvement in 2013, but we hope to see the same—if not better—in 2014.”

The amount of distressed properties also has decreased, according to Liz Little of Elizabeth Real Estate Group. “This year was a great indicator of where our market is going,” she says. “There are some changes that are going to occur next year in the lending aspect, but I think once we get through the fear of the unknown, it’ll all settle out and be OK.”

For those looking to buy, additional newly built homes may be on the horizon. “New construction is such a great stimulus to our overall economy. We went from booming new home sales to zero in the last four or five years,” says Janet Horlacher of Janet McAfee Real Estate. “Builders have been contacting us about cluster home projects. I think my forecast for 2014 is we’re going to see some movement in smaller cluster homes or 30-home projects.”

J. Warner of The Warner Hall Group of Dielmann Sotheby’s International Realty recommends buyers start the process early due to a lack of inventory. "A buyer who wants to have a choice needs to be in a position to act quickly and not have to sell their house. If a buyer has to sell their current home, then their current home should go on the market immediately.” Warner notes that offers contingent on the sale of a home are tolerable, but “most sellers in a seller’s market will not consider a house-sale-contingent offer.” He explains this isn’t because homes aren’t selling—instead, in a multiple-offer marketplace, sellers have the ability to simply accept an easier option.

For those looking to sell, Warner emphasizes the importance of being prepared to move: If an offer comes in, you don’t want to reject it because you haven’t secured your next home. Additionally, he recommends listing your home sooner rather than later. “In the spring, there’s always more inventory,” he says. “If you put your house on the market early enough, and you beat all the other inventory on the market, there will be a higher demand for your house. Buyers are currently looking and will increase in numbers as we move into the spring.”

Overall, the reaction from area agents is optimistic. “It’s a great time for people to be selling their home and moving up, and it’s a great time for people to be entering the market,” says Norm Polsky of Coldwell Banker Premier Group. “We’re very positive about the market for 2014.”

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