The good news is that homes are now more affordable than they've been in years. The bad news is that it looks like they're going to stay that way for a very long time.
The National Association of Realtors -- housing's biggest cheerleaders -- recently issued a forecast, saying that people who bought homes during the housing bubble might be waiting more than a decade to recover the value of those properties.
Q: That's a very sobering thought, especially for my husband and I right now. What are the implications of that for homeowners?
A: It would be smart to run through some what-if scenarios. What if you got a job offer outside the region and wanted to move? Could you afford to do it? Were you counting on taking out equity for student loans? What if there's no equity to borrow against?
Q: Who does this affect most?
A: For people who bought more than 10 years ago, their homes are still worth more than they paid for them, but not as much as a couple of years ago. So you need to be realistic when pricing your home for sale. If you were convinced three years ago that your house is worth $300,000, it's probably worth only $225,000 today. If you price wrong for sale, it will just sit on the market.
For people who bought when the market was high, it might mean they have limited options to move. If their home value is under the balance of the mortgage, they might be staying in that home for a long, long time. Or they should be ready when they sell their house to come to the closing with a check to pay off the lender, rather than getting a check to buy a new place.
The biggest trap homeowners fall into is believing their property is worth more than it is.