Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Little Optimism For 2008

This is the first post for this year. 2007 was tough, and a lot has changed since last January. Many believe the housing and capital markets may never be the same again. There’s hope for improvement later this year, and yet there’s some fear that things may get worse before they get better. November housing data, released at the end of December, gives little reason for optimism. New-home sales dropped 34.4% on year-over-year basis, the largest drop since 1991. The median price was down 0.4% on a yearly basis to $239,100. This number doesn’t account for builder incentives, which means that the actual prices have dropped even more. Sales of existing homes were up 0.4% compared to the month before for the first time since February – this sounds like a piece of good news but it’s hard to classify it as a turnaround point. Fewer homes were sold in November than the previous month: 46,000 homes sold compared to 55,000 in October. The supply of unsold homes currently on the market would take 10 months to sell at the current pace.

Mortgage interest rates ended the year nearly where they started, with the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaging a little above 6.1%. This, however, happened after interest rates topped 6.7% in the summer and the Fed lowered its benchmark interest rate by 1% with three consecutive rate cuts. Forecasts for 2008 range from extremely bearish to modestly bullish, but most are pretty cautious and somewhat vague. Happy New Year and let’s hope it’s a good year.

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