If you’re looking for a little upbeat news headed into the new year, consider the metro housing market.

Specifically, the more homes on the market, the better it is for buyers – but the worse for sellers, builders and real-estate agents. Plus, of course, the easier it is to sell a home, the easier it is for that seller to buy something else, and the speed of that turnaround ripples through the economy.

Realtors say a six-month supply of homes on the market is balanced, favoring neither side – but things have been swinging the way of sellers and builders after an extended period in which conditions favored buyers.

In January 2011, there was a 9.5-month supply of new homes on the nine-county market and a 7.7-month supply of existing homes, according to the Kansas City Regional Association of Realtors and the Heartland Multiple Listing Service. Existing-home sales account for more than 90 percent of the market. Those figures have been steadily coming down. As of last month, the supply of new homes was down to 6.1 months, and it was 5.2 months for existing homes, the second month in a row below six months.

And prices are up a bit, reflecting a tighter market. The average new home sold last month in Jackson County went for $302,175, up 9.2 percent from $276,668 in November 2011. Metrowide, the average new home sold for $331,035, up 2.4 percent from 323,146. Johnson County ($387,009) and Wyandotte County ($305,000) led the way, followed by Jackson County.

It’s much the same pattern for existing homes: $132,233 for the average home in Jackson County last month, up 19.6 percent from  $110,555 in November 2011. Metrowide, the average was $158,850, up 7.8 percent from $147,386. Again, Johnson County ($229,929) led the way, followed by Miami County, Kan., (206,297), Platte ($169,324), Leavenworth ($156,661) and Cass ($135,371). Jackson County came in only ahead of Clay and Ray counties (counted together at $126,320) and Wyandotte County ($66,139).

This falls in line with metro housing starts, which are on line to have their best year since 2008 – but homebuilders also have been among those expressing the loudest concerns about the unresolved “fiscal cliff” in Washington, meaning taxes could go up and across-the-board spending cuts could kick in next week. There’s broad consensus that would mean at least a shallow recession for the first half of 2013 – and homebuilders and Realtors are usually among the first to feel the effects.

Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s business editor. Reach him at jeff.fox@examiner.net or 816-350-6313. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_Fox.