The Clouds Haven’t Quite Parted, But the Long-Term Case for Home Ownership Is Looking Stronger…Doug Yearly, chief executive of luxury builder Toll Brothers Inc., told investors in May that "some of our clients, after waiting so long, are starting to move off the fence and into the market, motivated by attractive pricing, low interest rates and, most important, the desire to take the next step in their lives. The family with elementary-school kids and a puppy when the housing debacle began five years ago now has middle-school kids and the dog weighs 80 pounds."
Back in June 2006, when the housing market peaked, the prospect of a five-year national housing bust seemed unimaginable to most people. And yet here we are, with the latest Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller index showing that prices hit new bear-market lows, falling back to 2002 levels nationally and to 1990s levels in some battered regions.Despite all the gloom, however, there are growing indications that it is a good time to buy. Mortgage rates, which fell to 4.55% for the week ending June 2, according to Freddie Mac, are near 50-year lows. Homes have become more affordable than they have been in years: According to Moody’s Analytics, the ratio of home prices to income is now 20.9% lower than the 15-year average through 2010, and 12.5% lower than the 1989-2004 average. A historic glut of homes, meanwhile, has created a buyer’s market: There were about 15 million vacant homes in the U.S. last year, according to John Burns Real Estate ConsultingInc.—some 3.1 million more than normal… there are a tremendous number of positive signs that could lead to a rebound," says Anthony Sanders, a real-estate finance professor at George Mason University.
By Ruth Simon and Jessica Silver-Greenberg, June 4, 2011, WSJ
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06/04/11 WSJ Psychology: If prices stabilize, it could tip the balance away from fear and pull more buyers back into the market.