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Housing bears: Time to hibernate?

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis September 20, 2012 06:51 AM

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Oh my, it was a bad day for the housing bears!

A torrent of positive housing market news tumbled forth Wednesday, with both sales and housing starts up markedly.

Sales of existing homes leaped 7.8 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors. It was the biggest jump since the home buyer tax credit ginned up sales back in May 2010 and it beat economists' expectations, Reuters reports.

And Massachusetts and other New England states are right in the middle of this rebound, according to a separate report sent out by RE/MAX of New England.

Massachusetts home sales jumped 21 percent, year-over-year, in August, with pending sales rising 25 percent. The median price of a single family home in the Bay State inched up 1 percent, to $310,000, RE/MAX reports.

Meanwhile, housing starts also jumped, rising 2.3 percent for an annual pace of 750,000 new starts.

Still, before the housing bulls get carried away here, let's put some of these numbers in context.

While the rebound in sales is badly needed, the overall level of activity is still a good 20 percent or so below where it was at the market's peak back in the mid-2000s.

The same is true as well for other key housing indicators.

Boston area home prices remain 18 percent below their 2005 peak, according to Zillow.

Meanwhile, housing starts would have to reach at least 1 million a year to get back to normal, post-war levels, and at 750,000, we are a long way from that.

Finally, the global economy still looks pretty shaky - and a downturn in China or another turn for the worse in Europe could change the picture pretty rapidly.

So housing bears, don't head off just yet for a long winter's sleep - we may need you after all.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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