As we close out 2008, the nation looks ahead with hope for an improved housing market in the coming year. Will 2009 bring property values back up? Will this next year see the rise of home sales across the country, as the market returns to normal? Will a flood of more confident buyers emerge, turning the tides in favor of sellers again?

The short answer: Time will tell.

But meanwhile, the Internet world is filled with opinions, some local and some national.

In Seattle, a late-November article cited Jonathan Miller, a PricewaterhouseCoopers consultant and lead author of the annual Emerging Trends report, who said: “Forget the quick fix: 2009 will be a downer; we don’t think 2010 will be much better … We’re hoping that by 2011, we’ll be in a slow recovery.”

In Asheville, NC, according to a article, hopes are high only for those who have cash on hand. “Although the real estate bubble has burst, the bottom is still many months or years away,” writes Mike Summey, coauthor of the “Weekend Millionaire book” series. “Prices will continue falling, foreclosures will increase, and lenders will be very cautious until the market comes back in balance. Once income is again able to support purchase prices, the markets will start to recover. Until then, investors with cash and good credit are in the driver’s seat and will continue to make money when they buy.”

Californians are more optimistic: According to an article in LA’s Daily News, Mike Schniepp, head of the Santa Barbara-based California Economic Forecast is quoted as saying, “The Santa Clarita Valley housing market should recover by next summer (2009).”

Florida also expects good news, especially if the state’s values have already hit bottom and are set to increase. The Charlotte Sun wrote last month that “Existing Florida home sales are up and plummeting property values may have bottomed out. That’s the encouraging message from two real estate reports released Wednesday on Florida home values and single-family home sales in the third quarter.”

What does this mean for you as a home seller or home buyer? Remember to keep in mind that real estate is local, so your area’s trends will have the greatest impact on pricing. Also remember that no matter what the market is like, there are always people buying and selling properties. Do all you can to market your home at its best!

(All bold type added by the author of this blog post, not appearing in the original quotations.)