From the WSJ:
After years of watching home prices slide, Claudia Ruggiero, a teacher in White Plains, was ready to strike.
She and her husband Michael Johnson, also a teacher, had a 14-month-old son at home and needed a shorter commute. They found a three-bedroom Dutch colonial in Armonk, a neighborhood they thought they could never afford, for a bit more than $500,000.
In a strong sign of recovery in the housing market, cost-conscious buyers such as Ms. Ruggiero have stormed back into the market for lower-priced properties across the New York area in recent months, leading analysts to speculate that the worst of the housing slump may be over.
Across Westchester, the number of buyers in contract to buy homes priced less than $500,000 at the end of 2011 rose by nearly 40% compared to a year earlier, according to a market report issued by the broker Houlihan Lawrence. Sales weakened at higher price points.
Analysts have noted a similar pattern in New Jersey. Sales have picked up due to buyers of properties priced less than $400,000, according to data compiled by the Otteau Valuation Group. The number of such contracts signed during the fourth quarter rose by 11.3% compared to the same period a year earlier.
Analysts said housing-market recoveries often begin at the bottom.
“It is nice when you get the high end of the market doing well,” said Chris Meyers, chief operating officer of Houlihan Lawrence, the largest residential brokerage in Westchester, “but in our experience the strong markets get healthy from the bottom up.”
Jeffrey G. Otteau, an appraiser and housing analyst in New Jersey, said that state’s market had “bottomed out.” He said the surge in lower-end sales strengthened month by month since September. It was, he said, like a “snowball, rolling down hill and gaining momentum” that was likely to continue in 2012.
He attributed the change to an improved economy, with the creation of entry-level jobs triggering home buying by first time homebuyers backed by support from federal housing programs. A bump down in mortgage rates was also a factor, brokers said.