Is Housing Out of the Woods?
by Marc Hogan
Depending on whom you ask, the winds may already be shifting for the housing market. All year, economists have warned of a bursting housing bubble and its potential impact on economic growth. However, a recent stream of encouraging data has some prominent prognosticators changing their tune.
One of the first in line was Alan Greenspan. As recently as May 18, the former Federal Reserve chairman put an exclamation point on the housing slowdown when he declared, “The boom is over.” But now, the “worst may well be over,” Greenspan was quoted as saying Oct. 7, after mortgage applications posted their biggest weekly gain since June, 2005.
While the most bearish scenarios may be becoming increasingly unlikely, the housing market probably isn’t out of the woods yet. Even the most upbeat forecasts call for new-home construction to keep declining nearly as much as it already has so far. Meanwhile, underlying economic figures may contradict their milder headlines.
Others maintain that the housing downturn still has a long way to go. “Commentary suggesting housing demand is recovering, based on the latest homebuilder and mortgage applications readings, appears to be more wishful thinking than fact,” says Keith Hembre, chief economist at First American Funds, in an Oct. 20 report.
After years of defying naysayers’ predictions, the housing market has finally cooled in recent months, by virtually all accounts. However, the debate over when the current slowdown will end may be just beginning.