Real Estate Outlook
by Kenneth R. Harney/ Realty Times
Maybe it’s the beginning of a trend: For the second straight week, there’s been more economic good news for housing and real estate than bad.
Pending home sales — houses under contract but not yet closed — rose by two tenths of a percent in the latest report from the National Association of Realtors. That’s not a lot-but it’s the first directional change in months on this important, forward-looking indicator.
The latest home sale projections for the year are also more positive than the impression you get from reading the papers. Existing home sales are now forecast at 5.7 million for 2007 — making it the fifth highest sales year on record.
Yes, everybody knows that sales are down significantly in many areas from the record-setting boom years of 2004 and 2005, but those numbers were unsustainable and way off the charts.
New home sales will add another 800,000 onto that 5.7 million — giving us total sales of six and a half million homes this year. Any way you look at it, that’s a lot of homes changing hands!
Despite negative news stories, the economic fact is that the national housing market is very much alive — and large numbers of consumers are successfully buying and selling every week.
A key reason this is possible is that mortgage money remains affordable and readily available for most applicants who can document income and assets and have moderately good credit. The Mortgage Bankers Association of America reports that interest rates rose slightly this past week — but at 6.19 percent for 30-year money and 5.8 percent for 15 year loans-rates are still less than a point above all-time historic lows.
Another piece of positive news comes from the Federal Reserve Board: American homeowners’ equity stakes are withstanding the post-boom correction phase very well, and continue to hover just under the eleven trillion dollar level.
That is down slightly from the prior quarter — after all, that’s what happens during cyclical corrections — but it’s still $48 billion higher than it was just 12 months ago!
A new study released last week by research firm First American Corelogic offers insight on why the Fed’s home equity numbers remain high: It found home values stable or rising in twice as many markets as they are down.
That’s the real economic outlook for real estate, though not necessarily the one you get on network TV.
Published: November 30, 2007