The headlines on housing today offered some good news about home prices: they rose in June for the third straight month.
But while the scene in the rear-view mirror was hopeful, the road ahead still looks pretty rocky.
June, you’ll recall, was the last month the government offered an $8,000 tax credit to first-time homebuyers, sending house hunters flocking to the market. Unfortunately, home sales plunged after the credit expired. Some housing analysts worry that the credit just sped up sales that would have happened anyway, stealing demand from the second half of the year.
It's the second time the Obama administration has offered the credit to jump-start the market - with only limited success. A third round is under consideration, but the White House hasn't yet decided whether to go ahead with it.
With more than 12 months worth of inventory looking for buyers, foreclosures are still flooding the market with new homes; bankers are listing them at discount prices to sell them quickly. A stubbornly high unemployment rate is keeping millions of potential homebuyers on the sidelines. All of which could send house prices back down again.
The national averages mask sharp regional differences: prices aren't falling everywhere. And there are several different indexes tracking national and regional home prices. But they're all showing the same trends. The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index released Tuesday, for example, showed a 1 percent increase in June from May and a 4.2 percent gain from a year ago. Nationwide, the average price of home has risen 6 percent from April 2009, when the index hit bottom. Prices are still 28 percent below the July 2006 peak.
Something to keep in mind if you’re trying to sell your house. If you do find a potential buyer, be prepared to price aggressively.
You’ll also have to get creative about trying to stick out among the pack. For some ideas about on selling your house in a lousy market, check out this story by my Msnbc.com colleague Allison Linn, who polled real estate agents in several markets for their best advice on how to sell your home.