Housing Market to Stay on High Plateau

April 12, 2006

WASHINGTON – Home sales should generally level-out and remain at historically high levels, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

David Lereah, NAR’s chief economist, said mortgage interest rates are trending up but will remain favorable. “Economic growth and job creation are providing a favorable backdrop for the housing market, but rising interest rates have an offsetting effect,” Lereah said. “Home sales will move up and down somewhat over the remainder of the year but stay at a high plateau, meaning this will be the third strongest year on record.” He expects the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage to rise to 6.9 percent by the end of the year.

Growth in the U.S. gross domestic product is forecast at 3.7 percent in 2006, while the unemployment rate should average 4.8 percent.

Existing-home sales are projected to drop 6.0 percent to 6.65 million this year from a record 7.08 million in 2005. New-home sales are likely fall 10.9 percent to 1.14 million from the record 1.28 million last year – both sectors would see the third best year following 2005 and 2004. Housing starts are forecast at 2.00 million in 2006, which is 3.2 percent below the 2.07 million in total starts last year.

NAR President Thomas M. Stevens from Vienna, Va., said home prices are expected to cool, but not as much as in earlier projections. “Although housing inventories have been improving, the balance is still a bit more favorable for sellers and annual appreciation remains in double-digit territory,” said Stevens, senior vice president of NRT Inc. “Even so, the market is in a process of normalization – appreciation will return to normal single-digit patterns, providing solid investment returns into the future.”

The national median existing-home price for all housing types is likely to increase 6.4 percent this year to $221,700, while the median new-home price is expected to rise 2.3 percent to $242,700.

Inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index is seen at 3.4 percent in 2006. Inflation-adjusted disposable personal income should grow 3.8 percent this year.

Source: The National Association of Realtors

Contact ALTA at 202-296-3671 or communications@alta.org.