by Kenneth R. Harney – Tue, Aug 18, 2009
Sales of existing homes and condos continue to power the real estate market, in some areas they’re up by double digits, and despite all the negative headlines about foreclosures, even prices are rising in many places as well.
Sales in the second quarter ending June 30 jumped by nearly 4 percent countrywide, according to the National Association of Realtors. Second quarter sales in 39 states were higher than the first quarter, as they were in 129 out of the 155 largest markets.
New York saw an impressive 22 percent increase for the quarter, as did Wisconsin. California, Michigan and Minnesota all registered double-digit sales gains compared with the second quarter of 2008.
Prices were still flat or down in markets where large percentages of sales are bank-owned REO. But in relatively healthy metro areas like Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas, they were up significantly, by 11 percent over the second quarter of 2008.
In the Denver area during June, home prices were 6 percent higher than May, and resales increased by an eye-popping 32 percent, according to MDA DataQuick researchers.
Several of the national home price indexes also continue to point to more than a mere bottoming out — they’re documenting real turnarounds in key areas. The IAS 360 index reported a 1.2 percent average increase in its thousands of data-gathering submarkets and neighborhoods for June.
Average prices in Boston gained 2.9 percent for the month, according to IAS. In Chicago they were up 1.3 percent, Los Angeles 2.2 percent, San Francisco 1.7 percent, and San Diego 1.4 percent.
Meanwhile, mortgages continued their modest but steady gains, with new loan applications to buy houses up last week by about one percent over the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
Rates jumped slightly, however, with 30 year fixed conventional loans going for an average 5.4 percent, and fifteen year rates at 4.7 percent.
Conditions in the overall economy were more mixed than in the housing arena, but the big picture still has most economists, and even the Federal Reserve, encouraged that the recession will be over this year.
Fewer jobs were lost last month than expected and unemployment fell to 9.4 percent. But let’s face it: losing a quarter of a million jobs in the span of a month is still a serious drag on the economy – and is certainly no plus for housing.
On the other hand, is there anybody out there who wants to trade today’s mixed outlook with last fall’s horror show scenario, when we were all tottering on the edge of a global financial disaster?