Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Real Estate Outlook: Indicators of Recovery

You may not be quite ready to accept the idea that housing on a national basis has moved beyond bottoming out and is now in recovery mode.

But think about this: Even if you're bearish on the market, you've got to notice that some extraordinarily positive signs are popping up that point to recovery.

  • New mortgage applications last week for home purchases and refinancings were up 77 percent from the same week in April 2008, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. That's a statistic that's hard to ignore!
  • Mortgage rates continue to average well below 5 percent -- 4.7 percent last week on average for 30-year fixed-rate loans and 4.5 percent for 15 year loans. Rates like these are a major factor pushing applications way up, no question, but sharply lower housing prices in many markets are an important part of the equation as well.
  • Nearly 600,000 homebuyers have already claimed either the $7,500 tax credit from last year, or the $8,000 credit for this year, according to IRS data cited by the National Association of Home Builders.
  • Many of these buyers are true first timers, but plenty of others are people who are now jumping back into real estate after not owning for a few years, drawn in by today's much more affordable prices and financing.
  • The rebound underway in mortgages is even creating a mini hiring boom! The Bank of America has just announced that it will be adding 5,000 new positions around the country -- just to deal with its red hot mortgage business, which closed nearly 400,000 new loans during the first quarter. Other big lenders are hiring loan officers and processors again too.
  • Hard-hit local housing markets continue to roar back with sales gains. On Florida's west coast, in the Sarasota and Bradenton areas, sales were up 28 percent in March over last year, and pending sales -- pointing to more purchases in the pipeline but not yet closed -- were up 27 percent.
  • Inventories of unsold houses in the Sarasota-Bradenton area are down 31 percent, to the lowest level since December 2005, according to a report from Trendgrafix.
  • Nationally, house prices have begun moving up again after many months of declines. According to the Federal Housing Finance Agency, prices rose by seven tenths of a percent on average last month - after falling by six and a half percent during the previous 12 months.

There is no other way than to read these signs for the best. The market is turning itself around, and nothing but good can come from now.