Still a seller's market, but conditions more encouraging for buyers

SEATTLE -- Maybe you've noticed more "for sale" signs in virtually every neighborhood. Things are getting better.

"Oh yeah, they are," said Prudential Real Estate Broker Shari Kruse. "For buyers, I think they definitely are. Our inventory is climbing."

As mortgage interest rates creep upward, Kruse and other pros in the business describe current real estate market as brisk, depending on location. The more desirable the neighborhood and the closer you are to where all the action is, the greater the chance you're competing with others on the hunt.

The encouraging news is that with more homes on the market, including more homes for sale by owner, agents are reporting fewer multiple-offer situations -- the bidding wars are subsiding. That said, Kruse and other agents say if you find a house you really want and discover other buyers want it too, you should still at least consider paying for a pre-inspection.

"If you want to be competitive in a multiple bid situation," Kruse explained, "Consider doing a pre-inspection before you make your offer on the house so you know what the troubles are."

But don't rush and buy a home out of desperation, or you could end up with a case of buyer's remorse. Know the house, which means get a thorough inspection. Know the neighborhood -- find out about crime, noise and other issues. Talk to neighbors, find out what they're like. And even if an offer is already on the table, be willing to make a back-up offer because deals do fall through.

"As a buyer, it's really smart to be willing to put a backup offer on a house," said Kruse adding, "I know this sounds like a broken record, but get completely pre-approved. Deal with all the things in the credit history that need to be taken care of."

The long-range prediction is for overall home values to continue to increase, but not by as much as they have been. However, experts say condo prices are still appreciating quite a bit because they're finally catching on, and condo inventory is declining. Short sales are moving more quickly now, but they're still unpredictable and with home values going up, banks are insisting on more money so the deals are not as good. Brokers say it's also tougher now to make a big profit on a "flip".

The brisk local market is expected to remain that way through September.