The housing market is recovering. As more home buyers are taking advantage of the improved affordability conditions. With mortgage rates hovering around recent record lows and home prices having generally stabilized, economists are expecting an upward trend to a healthy and sustainable level in 2011.
Encouraging signs are showing up across the economy. Retail sales recently hit their highest level since before the recession. Key measures of small and big businesses’ optimism marched back up to prerecession levels and new claims for jobless benefits are trending lower. Together they bode well for steady job creation and improved consumer confidence which is generally manifested in more spending.
As the economy improves, current stimulus efforts by the government and the Federal Reserve Board are expected to gradually wind down. Meanwhile, serious buyers stand to benefit from historically favorable buying conditions.
Existing home sales resumed on an upward trend since bottoming in July. Sales activity rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.68 million in November. This was up 22% from July and 5.6% above the 4.43 million level in October, but remained 27.9% below the 6.49 million tax credit rush a year ago. As steady job creation is expected to continue, industry experts are hopeful for 2011.
Home prices continued to stabilize. Median home prices edged up slightly to $170,600, 0.4% above year-ago levels. Distressed homes have accounted for a fairly stable market share, representing 33% of sales in November. This is on par with the 34% in October and 33% in November 2009. Historically favorable interest rates, coupled with stable home prices, continue to offer advantageous buying opportunities .
The number of homes on the market continued to decline. Total inventory fell to 3.71 million in November from 3.86 million in October. This reflects the increasing response from buyers to improved affordability conditions. As lending standards return to historical norms and consumers become more confident about their financial situation, more people will be able to buy their first home, move up, or invest.
Housing affordability set a new record in November. The relationship between mortgage rates, home prices, and family income is the most favorable on record for buying. The home price-to-income ratio, currently at 13.5%, continues to remain well below the historical standard. Stabilizing home prices and rising interest rates are expected to begin drawing affordability back up toward more normal levels.
Source: National Association of Realtors - October housing data released December 22.
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