There is more good news for the housing market in 2013. According to National Association of Realtors (NAR), the industry’s steady recovery is expected to continue over the next few years, barring further tightening of mortgage credit availability or the much-discussed “fiscal cliff.”

"Momentum continues to build in the housing market from growing jobs and a bursting out of household formation," said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. "With lower rental vacancy rates and rising rents, combined with still historically favorable affordability conditions, more people are buying homes. Areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy show storm-related disruptions but overall activity in the Northeast is up, offset by gains in unaffected areas.’’

Locally, real estate agents also say sales recorded notable gains in 2012, as record-low mortgage rates and historic affordability enticed buyers to take advantage of a perfect storm of market conditions, a trend that’s expected to continue into 2013. With rising demand and shrinking inventory, an increase in home prices also is expected, according to Jeffrey Halpern, vice-president and manager of the Madison office of Coccia Realty.

“I am seeing fewer homes being listed and prices moving up a little bit, especially in Madison due to its prime location on the train line into Manhattan. In some areas - if a home is priced right and marketed properly -- we are even seeing bidding wars again,’’ he said. “2012 was a year of flux in some ways. We had a presidential election and many would-be buyers remained on the fence until the election was over. But now is a great time to buy. Interest rates are amazing and there are some really good deals to be had on a new home.’’

Diane Robinson, broker/sales associate at Lois Schneider Realtor in Summit, opines that 2012 was a year of continued recovery for the local market. “We also had situations where there were multiple offers on certain properties. Overall it was a substantial year. As far as I am concerned, the bottom of the real estate market has come and gone. The real estate recovery process began prior to 2012, and we are in a much better position now than we were in 2009,’’ she said. “I think what’s going to happen in 2013 - and in upcoming years - is we are going to see gradual, modest appreciation in home prices. I don’t think it will be as substantial as some years past where we may have seen a 15 percent appreciation in one year. Appreciation will be more modest, in the 2 to 3 percent range, which still is very healthy.’’

Communities along the train line also will continue to attract buyers in the coming year. “Any time you can get into the city in less than 45 minutes, and in many cases 35 minutes, that’s what buyers are looking for. We have seen people who moved further west because they wanted more acreage and then after doing the commute for a couple years, they moved back. The trend is moving into communities that have good mass transit options for commuters as well as a real ‘walkability’ factor, keeping residents close to restaurants, theater, shopping, etc.,’’ adds Robinson.

Market recovery also is evident in The Chathams and surrounding areas, notes Barbara “Barb” Barisonek, manager of the Chatham office of Turpin Realtors. “A lot of this recovery has to do with the train line locations of the towns we service out of our office. We also are seeing the upper end of the market showing improvement in terms of activity and sales, which until now had been the slower portion of the market to recover. No one has a crystal ball and we don’t know how all of what Congress is facing will affect us. But based on what we have to look at right now from the past year, and even our activity over the holidays, the upcoming year is starting out on a good note. We are optimistic about 2013.’’

Would-be sellers also should not hesitate to take advantage of current market conditions, agents say. “There have been other years during this period of time where inventory has dropped off but it hasn’t been as low as it is now. We are hoping to see some fresh new listings in January because there definitely are buyers out there who want to take advantage of today’s low interest rates. My advice to sellers is not to wait until March to list your home because there are people out there waiting for new inventory to come onto the market,’’ Robinson said.

Adds Barisonek: “If you are serious seller, now is the time to list your home. Some people consider the traditional ‘spring market’ to be when the flowers are blooming but a lot of people are making buying decisions and searching much earlier than that. Late January/early February actually is one of our busier times for showings and offers.’’

Key for sellers in any market, according to Halpern, is pricing a home correctly. “Many sellers hear the market is getting better and start to overprice. A home has to be priced properly from the start or you will end chasing the market, and selling a home for less than you had planned or hoped. Right now is a good time to get a house on the market to beat the spring competition," he said.