While people seem to feel lately that we have avoided a "double dip" problem, there are various conflicting statistics and opinions about the actual health of the economy. From our point of view, we can see that the real estate sales units and average prices in our region haven't gone up very much in some cases, and that prices have gone down in many areas.
This doesn't necessarily mean that the price of a house is still declining. Very few of the sales are repeat sales of the exact same house, so it's very hard to tell what is happening on a micro level. Since the current market includes so many first-time homebuyers, the average and median prices are bound to be lower, as they are skewed to the lower end. Also, there have been so few high-end sales in some towns that it's hard to have a meaningful average.
What is true is what we're hearing. We aren't hearing as many people say that they are waiting to see whether prices go down further. We aren't hearing as many people say that they are renting because they can't sell the home they left behind when they relocated. We aren't hearing as many people talking about another major decline.
While it is true that buyers still expect good "deals", often on homes that have already been priced to sell quickly, and while it is true that they want every detail of the home to be perfect, the conversation has shifted slightly. The supply of houses on the market is declining around the country, and is notable in certain price ranges, at least for new listings.
The characterization I would use to describe the shift in mood and outlook is that we have switched from a "glass half empty" mode to a "glass half full" one. That means that, while prices haven't risen, and while the market is a long way from roaring hot, people seem more balanced about the future of the economy, and their own futures. Not exactly sanguine, but calmer. Maybe it's the "new normal", or maybe it reflects a generation that barely remembers a skyrocketing real estate climate. No matter the cause, we're glad to see it, and we're glad to be in a more positive selling environment at last.