Before things slow down, however, buyers should brace themselves for a temporary spike in the number of foreclosures as banks start expediting the processing of hundreds of thousands foreclosures that were stuck in the system following the robo-signing scandal. That backlog should move more quickly now that new guidelines for processing foreclosures have been outlined in the $26 billion foreclosure settlement.

Many of the bank-owned properties currently coming out of the foreclosure pipeline are being snapped up by investors who are fixing them up and renting them out — often to those who were displaced by the foreclosure of their own home. That has helped to lift prices on foreclosed properties, according to Alex Villacorte, the director of analytics for Clear Capital, which specializes in housing market valuations.

“That could have a significant impact on the market overall in terms of providing a rising floor to home values,” he said.

In some markets hit hard by foreclosures, the turnaround in prices is already underway. Phoenix recorded an 8.4% jump in home prices during the three months ended April 30, compared with the three months ended January 31, according to Clear Capital.

“It’s crazy,” said Tanya Marchiol, founder of Team Investments, a Phoenix real estate investing firm. “Stuff I was selling six months ago for $60,000 to $80,000 is now $90,000 to $110,000.”

Miami saw a 4.6% increase quarter-over-quarter through April, andTampa, Fla., was up 4.4%, according to Clear Capital.

Goodbye 3.8% mortgage. In addition to home prices, mortgages could also move higher.

Mortgage rates have been at or near historic lows for much of the past six months. The average interest rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage has not topped 4.5% since July 2011 and this week, it hit 3.84%, a new low.

But rates aren’t expected to remain at these record-low levels much longer. As the economy continues to recover, rates will move higher, said Doug Lebda, CEO of LendingTree, the online lending site. Although, he said, they will “stay very reasonable.”

The Mortgage Bankers Association is forecasting that the 30-year fixed will hit 4.5% by the end of the year.

Greater demand for loans will help fuel the increase, according to Lebda.

Even though mortgage rates have been cheap, borrowing for home purchases has been sluggish. The Mortgage Bankers Association estimates that homebuyers will take out mortgage loans totaling about $415 billion this year, an increase of less than 3% compared with 2011. Next year, however, it forecasts that amount will almost double to $706 billion.

As housing markets stabilize and prices stop falling, homebuyers will be even more confident about buying, said Humphries.

“People can now see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “And that can be enough to get them off the fence.” To top of page

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