Real Estate Outlook: Index Says Positive Growth Underway

Real Estate Agent with Integrity Realty



 Real Estate Outlook: Index Says Positive Growth Underway

 by Kenneth R. Harney

You might not hear much about them on TV or in the papers, but there are some economic signs popping up right now that are -- at the VERY least -- encouraging for housing and real estate.

Take the gold standard of all forward indicators for the U.S. economy -- the Conference Board's "Index of Leading Indicators," which is based on a broad survey of industry data and predicts economic activity three to six months down the road.

The latest Conference Board index registered its first increase in six months. Now I know that all we hear about these days is recession: it's either already here or it's about to happen.

But the index suggests that there should be positive growth underway in the second half of the year, if not sooner.

Buttressing that forecast is a new report from the National Bureau of Economic Research which found that industrial production in the U.S. showed an unexpected uptick in March.

Here are some other noteworthy developments this past week:

  • Applications for mortgages to buy houses were up again, it was the second straight week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association of America's national survey. Applications for FHA loans to buy houses jumped by three and a half percent -- and conventional purchase applications rose 2.1 percent.


  • The federal government reported that house prices nationwide stopped their slide between January and February -- and actually increased by six tenths of one percent.


  • Interest rates remain well under 6 percent, according to the Mortgage Bankers, with 30-year fixed rate loans last week averaging 5.74 percent and 15-year loans at 5.27 percent. The Federal Reserve is likely to knock another quarter percent off short term rates next week.


  • Freddie Mac announced plans to pump up to 15 billion dollars into the "jumbo conforming" loan market -- those are for high cost areas that really need some stimulus right now, like California.

Now, we're the first to admit that these positive-sounding economic developments are not ballgame-changers for real estate.

We've still got lots of housing inventory to sell before calling an end to the down cycle -- and total sales dipped 2 percent in March, according to the National Association of Realtors.

We're still dealing with a lack of confidence on the part of some consumers who are afraid that maybe prices still have a ways to fall.

But here's the point: It's undeniable that there are some glimmers out there that the underlying economy and financing marketplace, which after all are what support real estate activity, finally may be headed in a positive direction.

Published: April 24, 2008

Kenneth R. Harney writes an award-winning, nationally-syndicated column on housing and real estate from Washington, D.C. He is also managing director of the National Real Estate Development Center, a professional education company. He is a past member of the Federal Reserve Board's Consumer Advisory Council, a committee that by federal statute reviews all Fed actions on home mortgage, consmer credit and banking industry regulation.

He served as a member of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Working Group on Computerized Loan Origination (CLO) systems, and is a member of the Editorial Board of the Fannie Mae Foundation's journal, Housing Policy Debate. He is the author of two books on mortgage finance and real estate

Comments (2)

Ben Myers
The Broker Ben Group at Realty Idaho - Meridian, ID
CEO/Designated Broker


It's hard to say what is going on with the real estate market.  Every time we get a tidbit of good press, its followed by a landslide of bad.  Hopefully people will gain more confidence and get out there and live their lives.  Its not as bad in some areas as the national media would have you think.  Boise, Idaho is a great place to buy right now, and we're selling homes as well and leveling off our home inventory. 

Apr 29, 2008 01:00 PM
Frank Zeno
Integrity Realty - San Antonio, TX


Hi Ben,

Thanks for taking time to leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Your right Ben, there are some bad Market sectors around the country, but

not all is Doom and Gloom as the Media would like everyone to


Apr 29, 2008 06:18 PM