With home prices up and inventory down, the housing recovery in many areas is now in full swing. Would-be buyers must take special steps to make their bids stand out in this seller's market. Kiplinger expects sales of existing homes to increase by 7.5% this year, reaching the five million mark for the first time in five years. The median time on the market has declined 45% over the last year.
While the national median home price is $177,500, it’s considerably higher in some areas that are gaining ground. In Seattle, for example, it’s $290,000; in the San Francisco/Oakland metro area, it's $470,000.
We've rounded up seven homes across the country to provide a snapshot of what’s on the market (as of May 29, 2013) for about $300,000 -- from a small studio apartment in New York City to a spacious four-bedroom home in Omaha. Take a look.
What $300K Buys You Now
Square footage: 3,858
Listed for: $294,900
Built in 1894, this four-story Victorian-style home is located in Hagerstown’s Potomac-Broadway Historic District, about a 90-minute drive from both Baltimore and Washington, D.C. There are hardwood floors throughout the home, built-in bookcases, a large front porch, second- and third-story decks, and a gazebo in the backyard.Hagerstown, Md.
Square footage: 2,680
Listed for: $309,900
This colonial-style three-story home is located in the North Deering neighborhood and was built in 2005. It comes with hardwood floors throughout the main living area, as well as a finished basement. There's a fireplace in the living room, stainless steel appliances in the kitchen, a backyard with a deck and shed, and a two-car garage.
The housing market here is showing promise. Sales of existing single-family homes have increased by 13.7% over last year. In Portland, there’s a push to ramp up the city’s urban development through a proposed event facility and by courting entrepreneurs. Last year, Forbes named the area one of America's Best Hipster Neighborhoods.Portland, Maine
Square footage: 1,800
Listed for: $299,000
The real estate market in the Windy City is on the upswing, with home sales up 9.4% over the past year.
Built in 2002, this penthouse condo is located in the West Town neighborhood, about two miles from downtown Chicago. It has lots of upgrades, including a custom kitchen, granite countertops and a wine cooler. There are also exposed brick walls throughout the main living area and hardwood floors throughout the entire home. The home comes with a two-car parking space.Chicago
Square footage: 2,417
Listed for: $289,900
Built in 2004, this one-and-a-half-story brick-front home has hardwood floors throughout the main living area. The kitchen comes with granite countertops and a breakfast bar with pendant lighting. There’s also a screened deck, as well as a hot tub and a two-car garage, with a spare room located directly above it.
Recent data released by the Greater Nashville Association of Realtors suggests that the housing market in the Music City is picking up: Home sales increased 27% year-over-year in April. Entrepreneurs, in particular, should consider Nashville for its affordability: The cost of living for the self-employed is 10% below the national average, helping Nashville onto our list of 10 Great Cities for Starting a Business.Nashville, Tenn.
Square footage: 3,257
Listed for: $298,000
Unique features come with a home built in 1890. This Victorian home has detailed woodwork on its exterior, a master suite with a fireplace, multiple parlor rooms and a carriage house with horse stalls in the backyard. There’s also a third-floor guest suite complete with a kitchenette area.
The home is located in Omaha’s historic Field Club district, which was established 125 years ago and named after the area’s popular country club, which is still operating today. If you have a family and are considering a move to "The Big O," note that it topped our list of the 10 Best Cities to Raise Your Kids.Omaha, Neb.
Square footage: 425
Listed for: $298,000
Expect to trade size for location when looking for a place to call home in the Big Apple. The studio unit featured here is part of New York's Tudor City, a cooperative community composed of apartment homes located in Midtown East. Grand Central Station is just a few blocks away.
In addition to the main living and dining space, there's an alcove adjacent to the bathroom that could be used as a separate sleeping area. The building is pet-friendly and has a laundry room, bike room and private garden for residents.New York City
Square footage: 2,300
Listed for: $292,000
Constructed in 1994 and located in the Vista Primera neighborhood, this single-level home has lots of natural sunlight, thanks to large windows and high ceilings. There’s a dining area just off the kitchen that opens onto the patio, as well as a fireplace in the living room. There's also a den and a two-car garage.Sante Fe, N.M.