Headed in the Right Direction

Numbers Show Sales are Up and Heading in the Right Direction

October 1, 2009

Pending home sales in July reached their highest mark in two years, and closed sales also continued on an upward path. As a result, inventories are tightening; in June there were 3.8 million properties for sale nationally, compared with 4.5 million at the same time last year.

More broadly, there are other indications the economy is heading up. Durable goods orders have risen for three straight months because business inventories have been depleted. The stock market has also made a nice comeback, and exports have been rising faster than imports.

Thanks to these promising signs, we forecast higher home sales and stabilizing prices in the year ahead. But there are still some concerns.

First, although inventories are improving, it’s possible that many owners want to put their house on the market but are waiting for conditions to improve. Banks may be doing the same with their foreclosed properties. These concerns might be off the mark; in areas where housing has been recovering, we would expect to see inventories softening as ­sellers and banks jump back in, but we haven’t been seeing that.

Beyond the housing market, there are other economic factors that could hold back recovery. The country is looking at a continuing long-term budget deficit that could translate into higher mortgage rates. We’re also looking at rising oil prices ($70 from $50 earlier this year), with that extra money shipping overseas rather than staying home. And heavy job losses make it likely foreclosures will keep rising through the remainder of the year.

Still, we have reason to be confident. With home sales heading up and inventories shrinking, prices are stabilizing. These are the key conditions needed for housing to lead the economy into growth mode. Once that happens, jobs will follow.

Lawrence Yun
Chief Economist and Senior Vice President of Research at the National Association of REALTORS®

Yun oversees and is responsible for a wide range of research activity for the association including NAR’s Existing Home Sales statistics, Affordability Index, and Home Buyers and Sellers Profile Report. He regularly provides commentary on real estate market trends for its 1.3 million REALTOR® members.

Dr. Yun creates NAR’s forecasts and participates in many economic forecasting panels, among them the Blue Chip Council and the Wall Street Journal Forecasting Survey. He also participates in the Industrial Economists Discussion Group at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. He appears regularly on financial news outlets, is a frequent speaker at real estate conferences throughout the United States, and has testified before Congress. Dr. Yun has appeared as a guest on CSPAN’s Washington Journal and is a regular guest columnist on the Forbes website and The Hill, an “inside the beltway” publication on public affairs.

Dr. Yun received his undergraduate degree from Purdue University and earned his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland at College Park.