u.s. housing market
The U.S. housing market's recovery is gaining momentum, but there are still a number of issues for homebuyers to be cautious of.
To get to the bottom of what's really going on in the housing market, we talked to Gerri Willis, author of "Home Rich" and host of FOX Business Network's The Willis Report (6 p.m. weekdays), about the key things homebuyers need to know in today's challenging market.
U.S. Housing Market Recovery Just Rescued 4 Million Homeowners
In further signs of a U.S. housing market recovery, home prices are up - meaning a whopping 33% fewer homeowners are underwater.
When the U.S. housing market bottomed out in 2008, nearly one in six homeowners owed more on mortgages than their homes were worth. That translated to 12 million underwater homeowners.
But the outlook has improved considerably.
That's because home prices, which peaked in 2007, rose 7.4% in November from a year ago, according to real estate firm CoreLogic. That's the largest year-over-year increase since 2006, when the housing industry was nearing its peak.
As home values rose, the number of "underwater" borrowers fell last year by almost 4 million, and that total could drop to 4 million within two years, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM).
That's good news not only for the housing industry, but for the entire economy.
"For most middle class households, homes are by far their biggest asset," Karen Weaver, head of market strategy and research at investment firm Seer Capital Management LP told Bloomberg News. "So once the housing market starts to recover it helps consumer spending, it helps the whole economy."
Can the U.S. Housing Market Continue this Recovery?
The ailing U.S. housing market, the trigger of the Great Recession, is indeed starting to recover - but it'll take years before it's healed.
The Standard & Poor's/Case Shiller Home Price Index released today (Tuesday) revealed that home prices in 20 U.S. cities rose in June from the same period a year ago. It also marked the first such gain since September 2010.
All 20 cities tracked by the index also rose in June from May, the second month in a row in which every city posted month-over-month gains. The most robust one-month gains came from Detroit, Minneapolis, Chicago and Atlanta.
"The combined positive news coming from both monthly and annual rates of change in home prices bode well for the housing market," David Blitzer, chairman of the S&P's index committee said in a statement. "We seem to be witnessing exactly what we need for a sustained recovery: monthly increases coupled with improving annual rates of change."
Helping the housing market rebound are record-low interest rates. Mortgage rates hit historic lows this year, and while they have inched up a tad, they are still at record low levels.
The National Association of Realtors last week reported sales of previously occupied homes climbed 10% in the past year. Builders, seeing an uptick in interest from potential buyers, are growing more confident. The group in June applied for the largest number of building permits in roughly four years.
The news is encouraging, but don't be mistaken: The U.S. housing market is still a far cry from healed or even healthy.
"We seem to have upward momentum and we have confirmatory evidence and like NAHB housing confidence index," said economist and index founder Robert Shiller. "But you know we have lots of clouds on the horizon too."
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This is How to Fix the U.S. Housing Market
Real estate research firm Reis reported today (Thursday) that apartment rents are rising at the fastest rate since 2007.
Reis said vacancies hit a 10-year low as rental rates for the second quarter jumped 1%, the biggest increase since the financial crisis.
Compare this information with recent data on pending home sales, new home sales, and housing prices that has been more promising than months' past and it seems the U.S. housing market is on the mend.
That was the topic posed to Money Morning's Chief Investment Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald during a visit Thursday to Fox Business' "Varney & Co." program. Fitz-Gerald outlined what the recent housing data is telling us about the U.S. economy and the future of home prices and sales.
He also suggests what the U.S. government should do to encourage a stronger economic recovery and let people once again believe in the American Dream of home ownership.
Check out this Q&A session with Fitz-Gerald about the latest developments in the U.S. housing market. You can see all of Keith's analysis in the video below.
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What the Government Must do to Fix Housing
Recent data on pending home sales, new home sales, housing prices and rental rates have suggested the U.S. housing market is really on the mend - is that so?
That was the question posed to Money Morning's Chief Investment Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald during a visit Thursday to Fox Business' "Varney & Co." program. Fitz-Gerald outlined what the recent housing data is telling us about the U.S. economy and the future of home prices and sales.
He also suggested what the U.S. government should do to encourage a stronger economic recovery and let people once again believe in the American Dream of home ownership.
You can see all of Keith's analysis on the U.S. housing market in the accompanying video.
Case-Shiller Home Price Index and Home Sales: What the Latest U.S. Housing Market Data Show
The latest U.S. housing market data released Tuesday underscore the persisting trend of uneven performance in the industry.
The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index showed prices hit post-bubble lows in February, and U.S. home sales data show that while not all housing news is dismal, a strong and stable recovery is a long way off.
The U.S. housing sector has been a drag on the economy since a home price bubble burst and helped cause the 2007-2009 recession. While many economists maintain that a budding recovery is blooming in the troubled sector, recent housing market data are simply another wake-up call.
Here's a look at the numbers.
Case-Shiller Home Price Index Falls
The Case-Shiller Home Price Index of 20 cities revealed a price drop from January to February of 0.8% (on a non-seasonally adjusted basis). The 10-city index also fell 0.8%.
The 20-city index declined 3.5% from a year ago, while the 10-city composite slipped 3.6%.
"Nine housing markets and both composites hit post crisis lows," David Blitzer, a spokesman for S&P, told CNN Money. Included in the nine markets are Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Las Vegas and New York.
Blitzer went on to note, "While there might be pieces of good news in this report, such as some improvements in many annual rates of return, February 2012 data confirm that, broadly speaking, home prices continued to decline in the early months of the year."
Foreclosures and other distressed property sales continue to be the main challenge for home prices, Pat Newport, an analyst for IHS Global Insight relayed to CNN.
"We still have 6 million homeowners who are late on their payments," said Newport. "We'll still have lots of foreclosures, which will depress prices."
In fact, with January's mammoth $26 billion mortgage settlement between five major banks and a group of state attorneys general, foreclosures that had been held up for a year or more are now moving forward.
"Enough homes are in the foreclosure pipeline to keep house prices falling through much of this year," Celia Chen, a housing economist at Moody's Analytics, told the Los Angeles Times.
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U.S. Housing Market: New Home Sales Decline Has a Silver Lining
Another comforting sign for the U.S. housing market come today (Friday) as new home sales data for January exceeded forecasts, another bullish sign for home improvement-related stocks like The Home Depot Inc. (NYSE: HD).
New home sales in January fell 0.9% to a 321,000 annual rate. That pace is down slightly from the 324,000 pace set in December, but sales beat the expected rise of 315,000, according to a poll by Bloomberg News.
December sales were previously reported at 307,000 but were revised upward. Total 2011 home sales hit 304,000, down 5.8% from 2010.
But the dip in numbers isn't a bad sign.
"Don't read anything into the 0.9 per cent month-on-month fall in new home sales," Paul Dales, senior US economist at Capital Economics, told The Financial Times. "Sales only fell because December's estimate was revised up from 307,000. If all the revisions were concentrated in January, then sales would have risen by 8.1 per cent month-on-month. Moreover, sales are now at a level not seen for two years."
The supply of homes on the market fell to 5.6 months' worth - the lowest since January 2006 - compared with 5.7 months in December. The median price for a new home rose 0.3% to $217,100.
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