Good news, homebuyers: More homes to choose from (© Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

© Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The number of homes for sale is finally beginning to rise — good news for spring buyers — as prices continued their upward march in most housing markets.

For-sale inventory in the United States climbed 4.1% to 1.75 million units in April from the previous month, according to MSN Real Estate's listings partner Realtor.com. The average list price of $194,900 was 2.6% higher than in March. (Realtor.com does not provide data on sale prices.)

This price recovery was widespread, with 109 of 146 markets posting gains in April. Some of that was because of shortage-related price run-ups, but it also reflected a growing demand for more moderate- and higher-priced homes, as the economy and consumer confidence regained some ground.

"We're seeing a real revitalization of the market," says Curt Beardsley, vice president of Realtor.com.

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While a shortage of inventory continues to be a problem in many areas, it appears the problem is now starting to correct, Beardsley says, with more sellers listing homes and moving up. It's a trend he expects to continue through the fall.

Of course, the April uptick in inventory by no means covers the shortfall that existed in some markets. The number of U.S. homes for sale was down 13.5% in April from the previous year.

The inventory shortage means that once a for-sale sign goes up, it doesn't stay there long. The average time a home spent on the market in April slid 11% from April 2012 to 81 days. Only four of the 146 markets Realtor.com surveyed did not report a year-over-year decline in inventory and 15 reported declines of 30% or more.

Hot spots
In certain markets, inventory is disappearing rapidly. In Oakland, Calif., for instance, the average home spent just 15 days on the market, helping drive prices up 47% from April 2012. Outside of the Bay Area, markets where homes moved quickly include Denver; Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash.; Orange County, Calif.; and Anchorage, Alaska. In all of these markets, the median age of inventory was 32 days, down 40% from last year. And not surprisingly, many markets recorded some of the largest price gains in the past year.

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Other big gainers include Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Lompoc, Calif., with a gain of a whopping 45%; as well as Sacramento, Calif.; Los Angeles-Long Beach, Calif.; and Detroit.

However, it was Dallas that Realtor.com pegged as the strongest, most sustainable real-estate market in the country. The average list price in Dallas climbed 9.5% in the past year to $219,000 – 1.9% between March and April alone. Homes in the "Big D" stayed on the market an average of 47 days, a decrease of 23% from April 2012.

"It's a little crazy right now," says Jennifer Friedman Ackerman of Virginia Cook Realtors in Dallas. "The market has definitely turned, and our inventory is at an all-time low." 

That's good news for sellers in terms of price but can make things difficult for them when they're looking for their next home. "I have some clients in temporary housing because their homes sold so quickly," Friedman Ackerman says. "Some things are selling before they even hit the market."

Biggest laggards
Of course, not every U.S. housing market has recovered fully from the housing bust. Of the 146 markets surveyed, 37 continued to experience a decline in list prices from last year, albeit smaller losses than in previous months.