The housing market has turned?at last. THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

The housing market has turned—at last.

The U.S. finally has moved beyond attention-grabbing predictions from housing "experts" that housing is bottoming. The numbers are now convincing.

Nearly seven years after the housing bubble burst, most indexes of house prices are bending up. "We finally saw some rising home prices," S&P's David Blitzer said a few weeks ago as he reported the first monthly increase in the slow-moving S&P/Case-Shiller house-price data after seven months of declines.

The U.S. finally has moved beyond attention-grabbing predictions from housing "experts" that housing is bottoming. The numbers are now convincing, according to David Wessel on The News Hub. (Photo: Bloomberg News)

 

Nearly 10% more existing homes were sold in May than in the same month a year earlier, many purchased by investors who plan to rent them for now and sell them later, an important sign of an inflection point. In something of a surprise, the inventory of existing homes for sale has fallen close to the normal level of six months' worth despite all the foreclosed homes that lenders own. The fraction of homes that are vacant is at its lowest level since 2006.

The reduced inventory of unsold homes is key, says Mark Fleming, chief economist at CoreLogic, a housing data-analysis firm. For the past couple of years, house prices have risen in the spring and then slumped; the declining supply of houses for sale is reason to believe that won't happen again this year, he says.

 

Builders began work on 26% more single-family homes in May 2012 than the depressed levels of May 2011. The stock of unsold newly built homes is back to 2005 levels. In each of the past four quarters, housing construction has added to economic growth. In the first quarter, it accounted for 0.4 percentage points of the meager 1.9% growth rate.

"Even with the overall economy slowing," Wells Fargo Securities economists said, cautiously, in a note to clients, "the budding recovery in the housing market appears to be gradually gaining momentum."

Economists aren't always right, but on this at least they agree: A new Wall Street Journal survey of forecasters found 44 believe the housing market has reached its bottom; only three don't. (The full results of the Journal's July survey will be released at 2pm ET)

Housing is still far from healthy despite the Federal Reserve's efforts to resuscitate it by helping to push mortgage rates to extraordinary lows: 3.62% for a 30-year loan, according to Freddie Mac's latest survey. Single-family housing starts, though up, remain 60% below the 2002 pre-bubble pace. Americans' equity in homes is $2 trillion, or 25%, less than it was in 2002 and half what it was at the peak. More than one in every four mortgage borrowers still has a loan bigger than the value of the house, though rising home prices are reducing that fraction slowly.

Still, the upturn in housing is a milestone, a particularly welcome one amid a distressing dearth of jobs. For some time, housing has been one of the biggest causes of economic weakness. It has now—barely—moved to the plus side. "A little tail wind is a lot better than a headwind," says economist Chip Case, the "Case" in Case-Shiller.

From here on, housing is unlikely to drag the U.S. economy down further. It will instead reflect the strength or weakness of the overall economy: The more jobs, the more confident Americans are about keeping their jobs, the more they are willing to buy houses. "Manufacturing had led growth and construction had lagged," JPMorgan Chase economists said last week."Now the roles are reversed: Manufacturing growth has slowed as private construction comes to life."

Plenty could go wrong. The biggest threat is a large shadow inventory of unsold homes, homes which owners won't put on the market because they are underwater, homes that will be foreclosed eventually and homes owned by lenders. They have been trickling onto the market, slowed in part by government efforts to delay foreclosures; a flood could reverse the recent rise in prices. Or the still-dysfunctional mortgage market could get worse. Or overly zealous regulators or a post-election change in government policy could unsettle mortgage lenders or home buyers.

But the housing bust is over.

Write to David Wessel at capital@wsj.com

A version of this article appeared July 12, 2012, on page A2 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Housing Passes a Milestone.

 

About Ady Simion (Realtor and Public Notary)

Ady Simion was named in the Top 1% of all agents for NRT LLC a subsidiary of Realogy that operates a variety of real estate offices under brands such as Coldwell Banker, Sotheby's International Realty, Century 21, The Corcoran Group, and the technology-based brokerages ZipRealty and Climb Real Estate. NRT has 787 offices and 47,000 sales associates. Selling and buying property can be very stressful but with the right agent it can be profitable and a fun experience. Ady is also a Notary Public and being a people person he wants to help negotiate for his clients making their transactions as smooth as possible. Ady’s goals are simple: He wants to be the best source of information on the Los Angeles area Real Estate market, as he assists clients through each transaction with care and professionalism. He is proud of his large referral base of clients who have placed their trust in him over the years. Why him, when there are so many good people out there?!?! • Sellers will have their property exposed to the largest team of sales professionals in the world by far. Coldwell Banker Agents sale more homes than anyone else. • Buyers will have the opportunity to view more properties exclusively. • And most importantly when you hire him you get a whole team working for you not just “only one person”. Ady Simion started his Professional Career as an Insurance Agent, and then mastered the Mortgage Industry focusing on helping buyers and sellers achieve their life dreams. He now is an Agent with the Largest Residential Real Estate Company in the nation and the world, Coldwell Banker, at the Pasadena office which is the leader in the areas in which he specializes. After finishing College Ady has consistently been a Top Producer in every office/business he worked at. He speaks English, Romanian and Spanish. Real Estate is constantly changing and working with an agent that has been involved in the Real Estate buying/selling process most of his life is always beneficial for clients. Call, text or e-mail him or just stop by to say Hi and ask any real estate questions you may have.

Posted on July 18, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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