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I came upon this little summary of recent housing data from Realty Times columnist Kenneth R. Harney yesterday. He argues that although recent the data still shows declining sales nationwide, sales and prices are rising again in many markets. Too early to call a rebound, he concludes, but worth noting.
If you only focused on the big headlines in the past week, you probably noticed that home resales were down by two percent nationwide during March. That didn’t sound good — certainly not for the start of the spring selling season.
But when you take a closer look at last week’s numbers, you find that resales were actually UP in large parts of the country — sales in the Northeast states, for example, jumped by 2.3 percent, and in the Western states they were up by 2.2 percent. The national numbers that dominated the press were dragged down by a 6.5 percent drop in resales mainly in one part of the country — the Midwestern states, where economic and employment problems continue to be tough.
Another market niche that did surprisingly well but got little attention: Condominiums, which saw a 3.6 percent jump in sales. That was on top of a 3.7 percent increase the month before.
Then there was the surprise of all surprises — again, with little public attention: Home prices. The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight — the government agency that tracks price movements in a giant portfolio of millions of homes financed and refinanced by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — reported a six tenths of a percent GAIN in average home values.
On top of that, the National Association of Realtors reported the median price of home sales in March rose to $200,700 — that was up from a revised $195,600 in February. There were significant increases in median prices in a number of metropolitan areas, including Austin, Texas, Des Moines, Iowa, and Durham, North Carolina.
Mortgage money at affordable rates clearly helped power some of those sales and modest gains in prices. Thirty-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 6.04 percent last week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association of America, and 15-year money averaged 5.6 percent.
What’s the takeaway here? Have we turned the corner and seen the end of the correction phase of the cycle? No, we’re not making that call quite yet.
The 10-month unsold inventory is still a leaden weight — and there are still some downward price adjustments ahead in the local markets that were driven by speculators during the boom years.
But the fact is: In many areas, and in some product niches like condominiums, the national headlines do not describe the local or regional realities. Thanks to lower prices and affordable mortgage rates, sales in those areas are up, not down.
Buyers see real opportunities and are writing contracts. And smart sellers are closing sales.
Source: Realty Times
BusinessWeek editors Chris Palmeri, Prashant Gopal and Peter Coy chronicle the highs and lows of the housing and mortgage markets on their Hot Property blog. In print and online, the Hot Property team first wrote about the potential downside of lenders pushing riskier, "option ARM" mortgages and the rise in mortgage fraud back in 2005—well ahead of many other media outlets. In 2008, Hot Property bloggers finished #1 in a ranking of the world's top 100 "most powerful property people" by the British real estate website Global edge. Hot Property was named among the 25 most influential real estate blogs of 2007 by Inman News.