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Daily Real Estate News  |  November 14, 2007  |   'Roulette Economy' of 2007 Is Almost Over
“2007 has been a year of challenge; 2008 will be a year of opportunity for serious buyers and for REALTORSŪ,” NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun told a packed house at the NAR Conference Tuesday.

What Yun characterized as “the roulette economy” of 2007, fueled by subprime greed and then buyers’ fear, is almost over. With a favorable economy, pent-up home demand, and Wall Street “fessing up to its losses and cleaning up its underwriting,” 2008 will be a healthy market for serious buyers, he said.

Home prices nationally have declined by some 1.5 percent in 2007, which is "no big deal" after years of rapid appreciation, said Yun. In addition, he noted, there are still many markets such as Utah, North Carolina, and Tennessee that are appreciating and may even be undervalued.

Remind Clients That Markets Are Local

“REALTORSŪ have to educate their clients that all markets are local and that problems in a few areas aren’t meaningful," he said. "A national picture of the real estate market is just about as valuable as giving a national high temperature for the day."

Yun also noted that while the credit crunch slowed deals in 2007, much of the pain is being felt in the subprime area, while other mortgage sectors are stabilizing. Subprime constitutes only about 10 percent of mortgage loans, but accounts for some 40 percent of current foreclosures. Going forward, proposed federal legislation that would increase FHA loan limits should help moderate-income buyers, said Yun.

Yun expects GDP growth of 2.8 percent and job growth of 1.1 percent in 2008. Inflation should also remain under 3 percent, and interest rates should rise only slightly, he predicts. “For buyers who are into home ownership for the long term, housing still remains the best investment,” he concluded.

Strong Fundamentals Bode Well for Housing

Other national sales downturns in the last 30 years were spurred by broad economic problems, Yun said. This year, by contrast, economic fundamentals remain solid, with the U.S. gross domestic product expected to grow by a respectable 2 percent, supported by 2 million job gains in the last two years and continuing low interest rates.

Yun said 2007 existing-home sales will exceed 5.5 million, close to the level in 2002, a record-setting year. At the same time, home prices remain near record highs despite drops in a few markets.

Get Ready for the New Generation

Following Yun’s presentation, former NAR economist John Tuccillo gave attendees a preview of what the next real estate market would look like. When recovery comes, said Tuccillo, most clients will be Gen X and Gen Y. These younger buyers don’t want relationship selling; instead they want the best bottom line deal you can find and the one-stop shopping to make the deal faster so they can get on with their lives.

Other big buyers in the next decade will be retiring boomers, who will want homes in 24-hour cities and college towns. “Real estate practitioners have traditionally worked with first-time buyers. Think of these people as last-time buyers,” he quipped.

It’s hard to predict when any local market will begin to improve, but there are three indicators, said Tuccillo. First would be a drop in new listings, indicating sellers are withdrawing from the market. Second, days on market will fall. And third, the gap between listing price and sales price will narrow.

— REALTORŪ Magazine Online

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