CNNMoney reported Oct. 2 that economists it surveyed think that the nation’s housing market has finally turned the corner.
Of the 14 economists who responded to the news organization’s survey about home prices, nine believed that prices already have moved higher or will do so by the end of the year. Three months ago, half of the economists polled believed an increase in prices would not occur until 2013 or later.
According to the survey, economists have been encouraged by a multitude of readings, including three consecutive months of increases in the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index, a rise in the sales of existing homes, increased home construction and a sizeable jump in the sale price of new homes.
Mortgage rates also are expected to remain close to record lows due to the Federal Reserve’s purchase of $40 billion in mortgages per month for the foreseeable future.
“We’re seeing the signs of a pulse in a sector that has been flat-lined for a number of years,” Sean Snaith, economics professor at the University of Central Florida, told CNNMoney.
Ascertaining when the housing market has turned the corner also serves as an important indicator for the economy as a whole; well before elevated foreclosures resulted in a financial market meltdown, the housing market had become a significant negative drag on the economy. Housing continued to decrease the nation’s gross domestic product through early 2011.
Beginning in the fourth quarter of last year, however, housing began adding to growth according to Lynn Reaser, chief economist for San Diego’s Point Loma Nazarene University. She told CNNMoney that housing now is bucking the trend in what is otherwise a sluggish U.S. economy.
However, economists don’t think housing is as well prepared to serve as a driver of economic growth as it was during the housing boom and some previous economic recoveries, although it might keep the economy moving in the right direction.
Some of the surveyed economists said they felt there’s been some fundamental change of thought in the marketplace. Potential buyers who had put off housing purchases while prices declined now are more comfortable making a purchase.
“You had a lot of people with what they needed to buy homes — jobs, decent credit scores — who were on the sidelines,” David Crowe, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders, told CNNMoney. “All they needed to do was wait for their confidence to rebuild,”
Reaser attributed that change in attitude to the market turnaround.
“The firming in home prices might be feeding on itself,” she told CNNMoney. “You’ve got buyers not wanting to miss the bottom of home prices and mortgage rates.”