Friday, May 18, 2012

Realtors Optimistic On Spring Home Sales Season, As Investors Eye Builders LEN DHI MHO RYL -

Anyone who makes a living in residential real estate knows better than to crack open the champagne just because of some encouraging housing data.

Still, it's hard not to get cautiously upbeat over recent trends that point to an improving U.S. housing market and indicate some further strengthening in months to come.

National real estate analysts and local real estate agents sound encouraged by the state of housing as it enters the stretch drive of the spring home-selling season.

Foot traffic is up, prices are stabilizing by some measures and sales are trending higher. Recent housing statistics suggest the market is at its strongest point in years.

"Demand is up, and the psyche of the consumer is much better than it has been in years," said the National Association of Realtors' Ken Fears, manager of regional economics.

Agents See Change

How much spring homebuying are real estate agents noticing right now? Nate Johnson, with Keller Williams Realty in northern Virginia, says his team is "seeing a lot of buyers out there" and getting multiple offers on short-sale properties. His work is concentrated in Fairfax County, just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

Although down 2.6% monthly in March, the pace of U.S. existing home sales reached its highest level since 2007 in the first quarter, up 4.7% from the previous quarter and more than 5% from the prior year.

Prospects for new home sales are looking better too. Investor optimism has pushed IBD's Building — Residential/Commercial industry group to the top-ranked spot among 197 groups tracked, with Lennar (LEN), Standard Pacific (SPF), MI Homes (MHO), Ryland Group (RYL) and D.R. Horton (DHI) among highly rated stock market performers. Still, after an exuberant rise, several builder stocks gave up some gains Thursday ahead of April home sales numbers due out next week.

Near Washington, D.C., the main challenge now is finding homes people want to sell, Johnson says.

"The inventory is very low in some places," he said. "Many people are upside-down on their mortgages and can't sell."

Short sales occur when more is owed on a home than it sells for, when a lender does agree to a sale.

"A lot of our short-sale inventory are condos," Johnson said. "A lot of investors are snapping those up at inexpensive prices with the idea of renting them out."

Looking For Listings

A lack of inventory is also a problem in certain Atlanta neighborhoods, says Thom Abbott, an associate broker at Thomas Ramon Realty at Palmer House Properties. His firm specializes in midtown condos at prices ranging from $80,000 to more than $600,000.

by Vince Cariaga Investor's Business Daily May 17, 2012

Realtors Optimistic On Spring Home Sales Season, As Investors Eye Builders LEN DHI MHO RYL -

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