The Zillow Home Value Index fell 26% since its peak in June 2006. That’s a greater decline than seen in the Depression-era years of 1928 to 1933.

According to Zillow.com, "November marked the 53rd consecutive month of home value declines, with the Zillow Home Value Index (ZHVI) falling 0.8% from October to November, and falling 5.1% year-over-year.”

But the news isn’t all bad. If you’ve gathered around the office water cooler to catch up with colleagues, maybe you’ve noticed a bit of optimism blossoming. it’s not just a feeling, it’s real. According to Zillow Research, the economy is improving. The improvement is expected to gradually increase "household formation and consumer confidence”. But the housing market may still face greater declines due to "excess inventory of homes, high negative equity and foreclosure rates, and weakened demand due to elevated unemployment,” reported Zillow.com.

However, if you’ve been watching, waiting, and wondering, when to buy ... . Now’s the time to take note. While no one has a crystal ball to predict what will happen with the housing market, some experts are reporting that an uptrend will occur later this year. They’re basing their beliefs on the job market (some predictions indicate it will improve half-way through this year), and "Homebuilder exchange traded funds are above their 200-day moving averages,” according to ETFTrends.com

If all these things have you confused, a simple way to look at real estate is to understand your specific needs, wants, and long-term goals. Do you need a place to live? Are you planning to stay in your home for at least a couple of years? (Most buyers live in their home on average seven years). Does owning your home matter? Have you saved money for a downpayment?

Answering these questions will help point you in the right direction. Assuming that buying a home is the best scenario for you, how can you rest easy that you’re getting the best price? Ah, the $64-million question. You can’t.

Timing the market is like trying to win the lottery. There is no absolute way to know when it’s the bottom of the real estate market. That’s why you must know your specific needs, wants, and long-term goals.

If your needs include a home to live in for a lengthy period of time, then homeownership will likely rank higher on your priority list. If building credit, potential of appreciation–yes, there is still appreciation–especially when you buy a sensibly priced home in a good location. However, the appreciation may be slower and not shoot up into the double digits that we saw in some areas.

Consider this, with high inventory, sellers are motivated. You can scoop up a home at a perfect price and you can minimize your potential for low appreciation. If you choose a home that is in the lower-tier of prices (and still within your target price), your home will be less vulnerable in down markets and better situated in up markets because the higher-priced homes help elevate your home’s value.

Homeownership has many benefits including tax deductions, the opportunity to make your own creative changes to your home, and the potential for income if you later rent it out.

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