by Kenneth R. Harney
Saturday, December 30, 1899
In the meantime, housing may be better positioned than other major industries. That's because there appears to be significant interest in the improved $8.000, nonrepayable home buyer tax credit plus a historically-favorable combination of low interest rates and rolled-back home prices.
In a new research report, the National Association of Home Builders found that affordability of houses is now at its best level in years. The association's "Housing Opportunity Index" -- which measures the percentage of homes sold in local markets around the country that are affordable to families earning area median incomes -- hit a near-record 62.4 percent in the most recent quarter for which data is available.
By contrast a year earlier, the index was at 47, meaning that less than half of households could afford to buy a median priced home. During the boom years it was even worse.
Although rising unemployment is a sobering counter-trend, the improvement in affordability may be setting the stage for a real estate rebound -- even if monthly ebbs and flows in sales look gloomy in the first quarter of the year .
Mortgage rates continue to hover in the mid-5 percent range for 30-year fixed rate loans. Fifteen year rates are at 4.7 percent.
While average prices of homes continue to decline on a national basis, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency, dozens of local markets -- most of them ignored by widely-publicized surveys such as Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller Index -- continue to show net positive selling price performance.
According to the agency's latest quarterly survey, local markets in much of Texas registered higher prices year-to-year, along with parts of the Carolinas, the Northeast, and the Gulf states.
For example, houses selling in Austin, Texas, were up 4.4 percent over last year. In Boulder, Colorado, the average gain was 3 percent. In Houston 3.7 percent; Decatur, Alabama 6.6 percent; Kingsport-Bristol Tennessee 6.3 percent; and Syracuse, New York 3 percent.
You don't hear about these positives because these areas were lower profile during the boom, never experienced a bust, and are just not on the New York radar screens.
But they're for real, and their moderate, sensible growth patterns may be where we're headed in real estate this year.
Copyright© 2013 Realty Times®. All Rights Reserved