Thursday, March 06, 2008

NAR: Home sales, prices expected to drop this year

Forecast anticipates 2009 turnaround for housing
By Inman News, Thursday, March 6, 2008.

The National Association of Realtors expects the median price of U.S. resale homes to drop 1.2 percent this year, following a 1.4 percent decline in 2007, with sales of resale homes slipping for the third consecutive year.

The forecast report released today also anticipates a 31.1 percent drop in single-family housing starts, a 6.1 percent decline in new-home prices, a rise in housing affordability and a dip in consumer confidence this year compared to 2007.

The federal funds rate is expected to average 3 percent in 2008, compared with 5 percent in 2007, according to the NAR forecast.

Sales of resale homes are expected to fall to 5.38 million this year, compared with 5.65 million in 2007 and 6.48 million in 2006. The association expects a 4.2 percent rise in resale home sales in 2009 compared to 2008.

The aggregate resale home price is projected to fall to $216,300 this year and then increase 3.5 percent to $223,800 in 2009, with the median new-home price falling to $232,200 this year and rising 5.1 percent to $244,100 in 2009.

Single-family housing starts, which fell 14.6 percent in 2006 and 28.6 percent in 2007, are expected to drop another 31.1 percent to 721,000 units this year, and to fall 5.6 percent to 680,000 units in 2009.

New single-family home sales, which dropped 18.1 percent in 2006 and 26.4 percent in 2007, are expected to fall another 23.7 percent this year compared to 2007. New single-family home sales are expected to turn around in 2009, rising 7.2 percent.

The average mortgage rate for a 30-year fixed-rate loan is expected to be 5.8 percent this year, down from 6.3 percent in 2007, with the average rate for a one-year adjustable-rate loan falling from 5.5 percent in 2007 to 4.8 percent in 2008, according to the NAR forecast.

An index measuring pending sales of previously owned homes, also released today by NAR, was down 19.6 percent in January compared to the same month last year and remained flat compared to December 2007, the National Association of Realtors trade group reported today.

The Pending Home Sales Index is based on contracts signed in January, and a sale is listed as pending when the contract has been signed but the transaction has not yet closed. A sale is typically finalized within one to two months of a contract signing.

In January the index stood at 85.9 -- an index of 100 equals the average level of contract activity in 2001, which was the first year examined for the index and the first of five consecutive record years in sales of resale homes, the association reported. In January 2007 the index was 106.8.

Regionally, the index plunged 28 percent in the Northeast, 23.8 percent in the South, 13.3 percent in the Midwest and 12.7 percent in the West in January 2008 compared to January 2007.

NAR will release resale home-sales data for February on March 24, and the next Pending Home Sales Index and forecast report is scheduled for release on April 8.

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