First, Pearl9100 do not underestimate the blackberry users and abusers that visit Crackberry. I think all at one point the fine folks here will either buy, sell, rent something in their life time.
Here is my professional take on the Real Estate Market.
1) Home buying/selling: A couple of years ago when the market was "hot", many bought to turn around and sell quickly. This was either to make a profit, or they had no choice due to family breakups, loss of jobs etc. Home buying should be considered a long-term investment (5 plus years). It is a great time to buy due to the influx of inventory and low interest rates. Although more difficult to obtain a mortgage (which isn't a bad thing - people should not spend what they don't have), there is plenty of inventory to choose from and some good deals can be found. However, do your homework and get a professional inspector to look the house over before signing the dotted line (getting Cousin Vinnie, who is a part-time handyman might not be a good idea). Location-Location-Location. Location is never going to change!!!! You might be getting a great deal, but for resale, if it is on a busy road or next to a dump, most likely that will only make things more difficult when trying to sell down the road. Hire a knowledgeable Realtor who will work on your behalf and do most of your homework for you. They are getting a substantial commission that you are paying for directly or indirectly.
If you are selling a home: Price it appropriately. Many are basing their numbers on homes that sold when the market was hot. These poor folks probably bought their home at that peak time and spent 20% or more than the home was worth and now they just want to clear their debt. However, chances are, that won't happen. So either hold on to the home for several more years, or walk. Get a good Realtor that will go far beyond to market the home (open houses, virtual tours etc.) and do an honest assessment on your homes value and recommend inexpensive ways to make your home stand out among the competition. Again, they are getting a nice bit of $ and they should work for it. The typical house sale in a typical housing market takes 3-6 months to sell. Be patient- it only takes "one" buyer. If it does not draw an offer at that time, it is time to reconsider the price.
Flipping-I have seen one too many times, someone who thinks they can buy a piece of crap and turn around and make a small fortune on tweaking the house, only to find out that 1) while they are trying to make a diamond out of this crap, there are more things wrong then they expected. 2) a mortgage has to be paid, even while fixing it up and selling it (over 6 months most likely). Taking a second mortgage on your existing home to do this might not be a good idea. 3) and they are clueless and end up having to call professional plumbers, electricians, etc. in to help (cousin Vinnie was too busy working his full-time job). Flipping homes should be treated like gambling at the local casino. If you don't have the spare money-then don't do it. Fyi: If you buy short-sale, be prepared to wait 6-9 months for a closing.
I am still a believer that Real Estate is a GREAT investment. But think when our parents or grandparents bought a house, they were not looking just at the dollars. They were looking at it as a home. A place to create memories, a place to grow old in, and a place they can pass down to their kids. This is why they had their mortgage paid off by the time their kids were adults and they are now down in some warm climate fishing and golfing all day and enjoying a stress free Golden Years.