U.S. Housing Market Starts To Show Hints Of Growth

Housing prices are rising and it appears the housing market is starting to rebound. One factor that's helping is historically low mortgage rates.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block. In recent years, the housing sector has faked out economists, inspiring premature optimism. But this year, housing experts say things are different. NPR's Yuki Noguchi reports the housing sector that brought the economy down is now showing real signs of stability, even growth.

YUKI NOGUCHI, BYLINE: Dawn McKinley and her husband moved to Phoenix three years ago to become realtors, which was pretty crazy. At the time, Phoenix was Exhibit A for a country in the process of a complete housing meltdown. How many deals would you say you closed when you first got your license?

DAWN MCKINLEY: I'd say in our first two years combined, closed four, five?

NOGUCHI: So far this year, the McKinley's have closed nine deals and more are pending, and another three more months until the end of the year. And McKinley says what is true for them is evidenced across the city. Foreclosures and housing inventories are way down. Interest rates are low and buyers and sellers are more eager to do deals.

MCKINLEY: There's now a bunch of businesses that are going to be moving in here. There's an outlet store over by the Cardinals Stadium. And I think that is actually instilling some confidence in people that if businesses are opening, that means that they feel that there is money around to spend.

NOGUCHI: This is precisely the kind of effect that David Blitzer says will help the housing sector contribute for the first time in five years to economic growth. Blitzer is the managing director for S&P Dow Jones, which helps compile the Case Shiller home-price index. Today, that index posted its third straight monthly price increase for the largest 20 cities for July.

DAVID BLITZER: We see strong performance across the country and it appears that the housing industry after a long, long wait is back and is back in force.

NOGUCHI: Blitzer says it also underscores other recent good news about home sales and increased building activity. Of course, real estate prices are still 30 percent below their 2006 peak. And some markets are down far more than that. So a full recovery is still quite far off.

BLITZER: Somebody asked me if it would be in their lifetime and I wanted to know how old they were first.

NOGUCHI: How old were they and how long do you think it'll take?

BLITZER: Were they in Las Vegas they'd have to be very, very young to get back to their 2006 peak. On a national basis, where we got 30 percent to recover, I would guess at least a decade.

NOGUCHI: But in this kind of recovery, Blitzer says every bit of strength in the economy we can point to we'll take. Yuki Noguchi, NPR News, Washington.

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