Jacksonville approaches balanced real estate market

The latest figures from the Northeast Florida Realtors Association (NEFRA) displayed positive signs for people interested in homes for sale in Jacksonville. First Coast News reports that the NEFRA released its March 2012 sales figures for the city, which showed home sales increased 17 percent year-to-year. NEFRA President Dana Leslie told the news source that dwindling inventory was a contributing factor.

"We peaked in our market in the middle of 2007 with more than 20,000 homes and condos on the market," Leslie said. "We have now reduced that to under 10,000 homes. We are back to where we wanted to be. A balanced market is going to have between five and six months of inventory. We are there with six-and-a half months of inventory."

Recent history may indicate the housing market could be turning around in the city. According to the news source, real estate professionals sold 1,577 homes a month in the first quarter of 2001, just before the housing boom began. Agents sold 1,419 properties in March 2012.

Affordable home prices have made it possible for many people to consider purchasing a home in Jacksonville. The news source notes that 60 percent of the properties available in March 2012 were priced below $200,000.

"Anyone who is waiting around for the absolute best deal for a new home or investment should take a closer look at what is happening and make their move soon," Leslie said.

Buying a home is never an easy decision, but low interest rates have made it possible for many people to make low monthly payments. For instance, some lenders were offering 15-year fixed-rate mortgages between 2.9 and 3.9 percent in April 2012, available to those with credit scores above 740 and a 20 percent down payment.

Exploring banks' financing options can help you figure out what you can afford in Jacksonville, but additional steps may be necessary. Check out the list below to learn other ways to determine what type of home you can purchase in Jacksonville.

Down payment and debt
Review your current financial situation to get a better handle on your future. This includes looking at your debt, financial net worth and monthly cash flow. Many people have a wide selection of available options when they talk to banks, so you'll want to be prepared when you make your investment.

However, if you're in debt, don't fret. You might have the option to make a greater down payment to lower your monthly expenses. Many banks are willing to work with clients due to the large inventory of foreclosed homes available in Jacksonville. If you can help them by buying a home in the city, some lenders could be flexible with your monthly payments.

Home affordability calculator
CNN Money recommends using a home affordability calculator if you're looking to figure out what homes are in your price range. This tool incorporates factors including gross annual income, monthly debt and mortgage rate to determine what you'll pay for a property in Jacksonville.

This can be helpful when planning ahead. For example, if you take out a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage, it could be beneficial to look at your future in 5-, 10- and 15-year increments. Mapping out a game plan will give you a flexible outline to review your investment. You'll want to receive excellent value for your home acquisition, and using a home affordability calculator can provide tremendous assistance.