There is fairly good statistical evidence that the housing recovery has not been a consistent one.

In fact, the third quarter, which ended Sept. 30, was a mixed bag regionally, according to economist Kevin Gillen of the University of Pennsylvania's Fels Institute of Government.

It's safe to say that home prices were flat regionwide compared with the spring, Gillen said, and that sales, while flat in Philadelphia, surged in the suburbs.

For more than a year, I've been taking the idea of all real estate being local as far as possible, invading communities and neighborhoods in the region's eight counties to take their temperatures.

The result: No one place is registering a 98.6, but some are healthier than others, usually for reasons peculiar to the location.

In Bensalem, for example, Debbie Confer, an agent with HomeStarr Realty, said as the third quarter was closing and uncertainty about the federal budget reigned in Washington, the market in that Bucks County community was showing considerable improvement over the bleak days of the housing downturn. But, "in recent weeks, buyers appear to have fallen off the face of the earth."

Buyers on the edge of affordability, usually first-timers with pockets filled with more lint than cash, are typically affected by even modest increases in mortgage interest rates, and the surprise one percentage point surge in late spring hurt.

Beth English, an agent with Century 21 Hughes-Riggs in Mullica Hill, said in August that the market "hit a brick wall briefly" in June, when fixed interest rates rose from the mid-threes to the mid-fours, "and people got scared."

A recent survey of buyers and sellers by the National Association of Realtors contends that "unnecessarily restrictive mortgage-lending standards are preventing some financially qualified buyers" from participating in the housing market.

"Single home buyers have been suppressed for the past three years by restrictive mortgage-lending standards, which favor dual-income households who are more likely to have higher credit scores," said Lawrence Yun, the Realtors' chief economist.

"Not seen in this survey is the elevated level of investors in recent years," Yun said, adding that "the housing recovery would have been much weaker without investors, who often purchase with cash."

It's true that two-paycheck buyers are prevalent in today's market.

Anne Koons, an agent with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach in Cherry Hill, said that has affected the market because two-paycheck couples, typically with younger children, don't want fixer-uppers.

In a community such as Cherry Hill, with aging housing stock, there may be a lot of house for sale, but it's not exactly what buyers will take on a mortgage payment for.

Looking back over my local-market sojourns in the third quarter, I found that Weichert Realtors agent Deb Andrews scrolled through 55 recent Mullica Hill transactions and saw prices starting to climb back to $500,000 and $600,000, where they had not been since late 2007.

In Media, Weichert Realtors' Linda McKissick found that the 13 listings on the market in August weren't "enough to meet the demand of people who want to live here."

In Philadelphia's Eastwick neighborhood, broker George Moscony, of George A. Moscony Real estate Inc., said the market had been "terrible" for the last couple of years, and only "one in every 100 buyers here qualifies for a mortgage."

In University City, however, the last 46 settlements brought sale prices within 95 percent of asking price, said Fox & Roach's Jeff Block.

Indeed, it's all local.

@alheavens