Pending home sales fell in January

Pending home sales have fallen.The National Association of Realtors Pending Home Sales Index dropped 2.8 percent in January, falling from a mark of 91.5 in December to 88.9 last month.

Despite the drop, pending housing sales are doing much better than they were last June (http://www NULL.marketwire NULL.htm), when the rate was 20.6 percent lower. The pace of sales for the month of January was 5.36 million. This is slightly higher than the expected number.

"The housing market is healing with sales fluctuating at times, depending on the flow of distressed properties coming on the market," said Lawrence Yun, the chief economist for the National Association of Realtors.

More good news for Houston real estate is that the index indicated that the South rose 1.4 percent to 97.7. The number is currently 0.4 percent below last January, but is well above the national average.

The Houston real estate market has been higher in many areas than the rest of the country, but it is still not out of the woods. Demand for Houston homes is still where it was a few years ago.

Americans are confident housing market will stay steady

Recent survey shows many Americans believe the housing market is steadyingA recent poll discovered that 78 percent of Americans think the current housing market will continue to be stable, or even improve, over the next calendar year. About 61 percent of those polled still think the recession will make the economy worrisome over the next year.

The poll, completed by Fannie Mae (http://www NULL.fanniemae NULL.jhtml;jsessionid=DVK520UE3AYTHJ2FECISFGA), was conducted from October to December of last year. The persons polled were both homeowners and renters, questioning their confidence of the current housing market and economy.

"More Americans believe that housing prices will remain stable over the next year. We also are seeing encouraging signs in the positive attitudes toward homeownership among younger Americans, despite the severe impact of the housing crisis on Generation Y," said Doug Duncan, the vice president and chief economist of Fannie Mae.

Duncan added that most of those polled do not have enough confidence in the economy and are increasingly concerned if they plan to buy a home in the future.

The Houston real estate is faring much better than the rest of the country. Local home prices have risen for the past several months, according to the Houston Association of Realtors, while the national market has struggled.

Report: Mortgage rates rising in many categories

Government economists say mortgage rates on the riseStatistics released recently by government-backed mortgage giant Freddie Mac indicate that rates for home loans are steadily increasing across the board, indicating a possible revival of the market.

The average rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages spiked from 4.81 percent at the beginning of February to 5.05 percent ten days in, according to Freddie Mac. The current rate is also higher than the same measurement taken a year ago, the company adds.

The rates, according to Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist Frank Nothaft, are the highest they have been since last April.

"Long-term bond yields jumped on positive economic data reports, which placed upward pressure on mortgage rates this week. For all of 2010, nonfarm productivity rose 3.6 percent, the most since 2002, while January's unemployment rate unexpectedly fell from 9.4 percent to 9 percent. Moreover, the service industry expanded in January at the fastest pace since August 2005," he said, detailing some of the reasons behind the change.

Houston real estate, like property around the country, could command increased prices despite still-strong sales, experts say.

Realtors: Tight lending standards stopping 15 percent of sales

Realtors say many creditworthy buyers are being turned away.As those looking to buy Houston homes have likely noticed, the process of getting a mortgage has become significantly more difficult over the past few years. Officials with the National Association of Realtors say lenders know they are turning away creditworthy borrowers.

In a podcast (http://www posted on the NAR's website, the group's president, Ron Phipps, said that in meetings with lenders such as Citibank, banks are acknowledging that they know worthy buyers are having trouble getting a mortgage.

"The pendulum has in fact, on the credit side, swung too far," Phipps said.

Phipps added that an analysis by NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun of the credit requirements now, compared to what they were previously, found that roughly 15 percent of potential buyers who could have gotten mortgages in the past are now cut off. Phipps said those conditions are limiting the slowly-recovering housing market.

However, low mortgage rates, along with the prevalence of low-priced Houston foreclosures, have helped spur many recent sales. According to the Houston Association of Realtors, roughly one in five sales in December was for a bank-owned property.


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