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NAR: Home Prices Expected to Fall for Remainder of 2006

Numbers based on the stabilizing of mortgage rates and modest expansion of the economy

RISMEDIA, September 18, 2006—Housing prices are expected to continue to have a limited fall throughout 2006, according to testimony submitted by the National Association of Realtors at today’s Senate Banking Committee hearing on the economy. In addition, NAR noted that the sellers’ market is transitioning to a buyers’ market, which can be healthy for some local economies.

“For the past five years, the housing market has been a steadfast leader in the U.S. economy,” Thomas M. Stevens, president of NAR, told the Senate Subcommittee on Housing and Transportation and the Senate Subcommittee on Economic Policy. “After five years of outstanding growth, the housing market is undergoing a period of adjustment and becoming more and more of a balanced market between buyers and sellers,” said Stevens.

Stevens said that with the falling demand and increased supply, home prices still realized slight appreciation though it was less than 1%, where over the past few years homes were appreciating at double-digit rates. “While recent developments raise concern, it is important to remember that the housing market varies significantly across the country,” said Stevens.

One-third of the country (by population) is still seeing rising home prices, including Alaska, New Mexico, Vermont and many states in the South, excluding Florida. States that experienced the greatest increases in home prices in recent years are experiencing significantly lower sales, such as Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada and Virginia.

“Contrary to many reports, there is not a ‘national housing bubble,’” said Stevens. “We were seeing home prices and mortgage debt servicing cost-to-income ratios increase to unhealthy levels in some housing markets, which precipitate an adjustment.” Also contributing to the cooling housing market is an increase in mortgage rates of nearly one point, speculative investors pulling back and first-time buyers being priced out of the market.

Adjustments to the housing market are not unique and can often times be necessary, said Stevens. In addition to the rapid appreciation of years past, the rise in mortgage rates affects a homebuyer’s ability to finance and purchase a home. “Pressure is being felt in the housing market due to rising mortgage rates,” said Stevens. “With rising interest rates, homebuyers have become exhausted financially which explains why sales have tumbled in higher-priced regions of the country.”

NAR forecasts a drop in home sales of around 8% in 2006, followed by another 2% decline in 2007. These numbers are based on the stabilizing of mortgage rates and modest expansion of the economy. Also predicted is that home price growth will be minimal—less than 3% in 2006 and 2007. However, NAR warns that a significant shift in interest rates or a change in the economy would change this forecast. NAR notes that a soft landing is possible under the right circumstances and affordable mortgage financing is an important component in achieving this.

“Because the housing market strongly supports the economy and drives consumer spending, it is imperative that the Congress adopt policies that encourage homeownership and make purchasing a home obtainable for the millions of families who desire to own a home of their own. NAR stands ready to work with Congress to continue to open the door to the American dream of homeownership,” said Stevens.

In 2005, the housing sector directly contributed more than $2 trillion to the national economy, accounting for 16.2% of the economic activity, according to the NAR testimony.

 

 


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