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Home price gains bring sellers off the sidelines

By The Associated Press

This article was published June 30, 2013 at 2:30 p.m.

SAN DIEGO — Robert and Emerald Oravec were itching to sell their condominium late last year to move closer to a favorite surfing spot, but they were stuck. They owed the bank $194,000 and figured the most they could get was $180,000.

When they put their San Diego home up for sale a few months later, they fielded five offers within two weeks. It sold for $260,000 in May, allowing them to invest profits in a new home that's more than twice the size on a large lot and 40 minutes closer to the surfing beach.

"We're stoked," said Robert, 50, a facilities engineer at Solar Turbines Inc., a maker of gas turbines that has employed him for the last 22 years. "It was better to be patient and wait it out."

Soaring prices are leaving fewer homeowners owing more money than their properties are worth, bringing them off the sidelines of the nation's surging housing market and offering relief to buyers who are frustrated by bidding wars. As more homes are put up for sale, price increases are expected to moderate.

Mark Fleming, chief economist at real estate data provider CoreLogic Inc., calls it "a virtuous circle."

"The fact that house prices have increased so dramatically ... has unlocked a lot of that pent-up supply," said Fleming, whose firm found that markets with the largest percentage of "underwater" or "upside down" mortgages often have the lowest supply of homes for sale.

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