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17M Americans Plan to Buy a Home This Year

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- If you're itching to sell your home this spring, there's some good news in this week's housing market numbers.

The median home sale price rose 11.6% in February on a year-to-year basis, now standing at $180,000, says RE/MAX in its March housing report covering mortgage data in 52 key nationwide markets.

Actual home sales were down 8.8% over the same period, but there's a good reason: The weather was much worse than in February 2013.

Couple that with lower "for sale" home inventories (winter had something to do with that too) and the dip in sales volume doesn't look as bad as at first glance.

"Unusually harsh winter storms impacted appraisals, inspections and closings," RE/MAX says. "Even though inventory losses have been shrinking, low inventories in many metro areas had a negative impact on sales."

Sales should pick up, as demand for new housing looks like it's really picking up steam in March. American Express, in its Spending & Saving Tracker, says 17 million Americans plan to buy a new home, condo or co-op this year, up 1 million from last year. And historically, the more buyers in the housing market, the faster those for-sale homes go off the market, and at higher prices.

American Express reports 65% of home sellers saying they are "confident" they'll get the asking price for their homes.

"All of the costs associated with moving can really add up, but more consumers are feeling confident that they can afford to put down new roots," says David Rabkin, a senior vice president at American Express. "With more people looking to purchase a home this year instead of rent, and with seller confidence on the rise, it will create an interesting push and pull as buyers and sellers negotiate."

After six long years, the residential real estate market finally favors the homeowner and not the buyer. Amex says that only 30% of Americans say it's a buyer's market, even though 71% of sellers say they are willing to offer "sweeteners" to cement a deal.

That's a good balance  buyers who want to buy and sellers who will take an extra step to sell  for the real estate market, which looks like its heading to a busy spring selling season after years of sluggish activity.

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