Good News for Home Owners

by : John Harris

Over the past months, we have all been inundated with projections on the housing market bubble - Will it burst? It is going to burst soon, be prepared! Sell Now! Buy Now! And the forecast differs depending upon the television channel you are listening to or the media article you are reading.
According to James Cooper of BusinessWeek magazine, the numbers point to a gradual slowdown of the market - not a sudden crash, as many have predicted. In his July 10, 2006, article, Cooper cites how different indicators for the housing market are up one week and down the next. Some homes for sale indicators decline, while others rise. Though it is difficult to accurately project the future of the housing market for the remainder of 2006, he is optimistic - in spite of all the noise that changes the market outlook on a daily basis.
Compared to last year's peak numbers, the housing market is in decline for both new and existing homes for sale and the growth rate of prices continue to slow. Yet, the expected drop in sales has not been as bad as predicted, and the market collapse forecast has not occurred. The progressive slowdown is expected, however, to continue through the remainder of 2006.
The area of the homes for sale market that has been hit the hardest is the new single-family homes and existing condominiums and co-ops. Existing single-family homes for sale have faired the best with only a gradual decline in prices.
New home sales have fallen off sharply in 2006 and have the most volatile market indicators that cause the chaotic forecasts. There have been some ups and downs since the first of this year; however, new home sales are down overall by 10.9 percent since the end of 2005. Currently, builders have large inventories of new homes for sale that are expected to create further declines in both sales, prices and new construction starts for the future.
In May of 2006, the number of new homes for sale was up nearly 24 percent from last year for the same period. Median prices of new homes for sale were up by 5.1 percent for the same period but now have slowed drastically. With the average time to sell a new home being almost six months, builders are offering incentives to buyers, including helping with the closing costs, and are more willing to lower prices in order to sell off their inventories.
Condos and co-ops sales were off by 6.7 percent during the first half of 2006. The number of such homes for sale on the market has soared in the past year, gutting the market and bringing down prices and sales. The number of unsold units are up 73 percent.
The good news is for existing homeowners with homes for sale. This market is currently in good shape with both sales and prices holding up better than the new homes for sale market. Such sales have declined in seven out of the past nine months, but median prices are up 8.2 percent over the same period in 2005. According to Cooper, homeowners are not as willing to lower their prices as are builders, preferring to leave their homes on the market in order to find buyers willing to meet their price.
The bad news for owners of homes for sale is the number of existing homes currently being put on the market. In May of 2006, the number of existing homes for sale rose to 3.6 million, that's one million more than in May of 2005. This is sure to begin affecting the existing homes for sale market. Additionally, the Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates soon that will affect mortgage rates for buyers. Right now is the best time to sell your home as buyers race to lock in current mortgage rates before the Federal Reserve takes action.
The predicted housing bubble crash is not expected in the near future. Consumer confidence is up by one point in June of 2006, according to the Conference Board's index on consumer confidence, weighing in at 105.7. With good buyer confidence in the homes for sale market, a solid economy, and good labor markets, owners with homes for sale are still at a competitive advantage for now.