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I’m reading with some glee all the national coverage of the end of the housing bust. “Home Prices Rise Across the U.S.” says the front page of the Wall Street Journal. “3-Year Descent in Home Prices Appears At End,” says the same spot in the New York Times. CNBC devoted an hour to the subject last night. Newsweek has called the recession over on its cover this week.
The numbers are cheery. New housing starts were up 3.6% in June. Existing home sales were up 3.6%. New home sales jumped 11%. Even Yale Professor Robert Shiller, who told Fortune just a couple of weeks ago that “prices will continue to fall for a while, but at a slower pace, and then stabilize,” is now more bullish. Fifteen of the twenty cities in his Case-Shiller Index saw a price improvement in May, after 34 months of declines. “The change in momentum here is very significant,” he says now.
I was criticized a month and a half ago when I wrote a blog headline that screamed Home Prices Have Hit Bottom. I’m not going to crow about that. If you were on the street, seeing what was happening, the multiple offers, the bids over asking price, the agents not returning your calls. Then you saw what the national numbers would soon report. I’m still hearing and reading about a second wave of foreclosures coming. “September 15,” one real estate agent told me matter-of-factly. There will be more homes coming on the market. More banks will take hits. More people will accept lower prices for their property. It’s still a good time to buy real estate and a lousy time to sell.
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.