NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Everyone knows rising home prices make it a sellers' market. Sellers can afford to hold out for top dollar because buyers are rushing to beat higher prices.
Well, not exactly. Zillow.com, the home listing and data firm, has a more refined way of looking at it, defining a sellers' market as "not necessarily one where home values are rising, but rather one in which homes are on the market for a shorter time, price cuts occur less frequently and homes are sold at prices very close to (or greater than) their last listing price."
The buyers' market is, as you'd expect, the opposite: "Homes for sale stay on the market longer, price cuts occur more frequently and homes are sold for less relative to their listing price."
Prices may indeed be rising quickly in sellers' markets and falling in buyers' markets, but price change alone is not the key factor.
Zillow's approach makes for some intriguing conclusions about conditions as the spring selling season gets rolling. The West Coast is a seller's market, while the Midwest and East Coast favor buyers. In the recent post-crisis years, the whole country tended to move in the same direction, but now, in a return to more typical behavior, local variations are reasserting themselves, Zillow says.