It comes down to three things: location, location, location.
In some parts of the country, $200,000 will buy a house with a couple of bedrooms and some high-end amenities. In other areas, you’ll get a one-bedroom, or a studio. And some places $200,000 will get you a real handyman’s special.
Overall, buyers “are getting more for the money” this year, says Ron Phipps, president of the National Association of Realtors. But what they can get “is very location-specific,” he says.
Nationwide, median home prices are $170,600, up about 0.5 percent, according to the association’s 2010 year-end numbers. But that’s a mash-up that includes Honolulu, where the median home price is $598,200, and the Youngstown, Ohio area, where it’s $62,800.
What buyers need hasn’t changed all that much, says Jeff Wiren, president of the Portland Metropolitan Association of Realtors in Oregon. “In general, the biggest shift that we have seen in the marketplace is people trending toward smaller homes that are easier and more affordable to maintain.”
Buyers are being a lot more realistic, Wiren says, “about the reality of the cost of homeownership.”