Real estate agents are showing heightened optimism for housing as the market continues its swing toward sellers, Redfin observed in its latest Real-Time Agent Survey.

For its first-quarter report, Redfin surveyed 650 agents either employed by or partnered with the company. Respondents spanned 21 metro markets across the country.

According to brokerage’s findings, the number of agents saying now is a good time to buy plummeted from 75 percent in Q3 2012 to just 57 percent in Q1 2013. At the same time, the number of agents saying now is a bad time to buy rose slightly, though the percentage is still low—5 percent in Q1 2013 compared to 2 percent in Q3 2012.

On the other hand, 82 percent of agents believe now is a good time to sell, a spike from 54 percent in the third-quarter survey.

Contributing to that shift is the increased perception that sellers are gaining confidence in the market. According to Redfin, 98 percent of agents surveyed agreed that sellers are becoming more confident, while 83 percent agreed buyers are more confident.

Nearly one-quarter of respondents—24 percent—said sellers face “no major challenges” today.

“The third quarter’s biggest challenge for sellers, ‘unrealistic expectations,’ fell from 53 percent to just 35 percent this quarter,” Redfin analyst Tim Ellis wrote in ablog. “With home prices rising in most every market, what was unrealistic last year has become completely reasonable this year.”

Agents also expressed greater confidence as far as home prices are concerned. Ninety-seven percent of respondents believe prices will rise in the coming months (compared to 87 percent in the last survey), while the number of those predicting prices will “rise a lot” quadrupled to 44 percent. The number of agents expecting prices to either decline or stay the same fell to 3 percent, down from 12 percent in the previous survey.

On the other side of the equation, agents reported multiple challenges keeping prospective buyers away from their dream homes. “Low inventory” and “multiple offers” were the most commonly cited challenges, each one receiving mention from 96 percent of respondents. In addition, 39 percent of agents pointed to “rising prices” as a concern, more than double the percentage in the third quarter.

Perhaps most promising was the rise in optimism concerning the real estate profession itself. Seventy-four percent of agents believe the industry will grow in size in the next five years, up from 59 percent in the third quarter. The share of respondents saying the profession will downsize halved from the last survey, dropping to 6 percent.

“Agent attitudes have flipped from cautious optimism late last year to amazement at the suddenly hot market in most parts of the country … and we haven’t even arrived at the typically busy spring season yet,” Ellis wrote.

by Tory Barringer