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An early sign of buyer interest picking up pace?
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Buyers apparently sense a change in the wind.

There was a 3 percent change in available previously owned homes in Manteca as of the first of February increasing 3 percent from a month ago at the start of January going from 296 to 305.

What was telling though was how quickly homes sold. For the first time since mid-2010, the average Manteca home is selling in less than 60 days after they go on the market. It was 56 days as of Feb. 1 compared to 60 days on Jan. 1. Compare that to a year ago when it was 76 days.

The pickup in the time a house is on the market is an early sign that the economy is on a mend enough that more buyers who had been on the fence are starting to act. There is still a question of the shadow inventory or homes in foreclosure but not yet on the market.

No one has a real hand on it, but by indications that real estate agents who deal with banks are getting it is looking more and more like 2012 will be the last big year for foreclosures flooding the market before they start dropping off significantly.

There has been a slight uptick in the median listing price but that has more to do with bigger homes starting to move into the market.

The average square footage of the 305 homes for sale in Manteca on Feb. 1 was 1,856 square feet, up nine square feet from the previous month. That in itself isn’t enough to drive up the median price since homes for sale - even though they are more - reflects an average square foot asking price of $93 compared to $94 a month early.

That is keeping with observations made by some agents that they believed a larger chunk of the shadow inventory consists of those that are closer to being McMansions than 1,800-square-foot homes.

Such homeowners who were tempted typically saw much more equity growth during the housing boom they could access for equity loans. It is believed most of the foreclosures hitting the market this year will consist of homes under stress from refinancing to essentially use the property as an ATM since most “funny money” loans stopped being made by 2007.