The recent housing market has changed. The boom has ended. However, sales will continue at healthy levels and price appreciation will return to a historic "normal". The National Association of Realtors®, David Lereah, NAR's chief economist, said home sales are settling into a slower pace. "In recent years we were occasionally challenged to find appropriate superlatives to describe surprisingly high home sales," he said. "Now the housing market has cooled, but 2006 is still expected to be the third strongest on record. In this case, experiencing a slowing from a hot market is a good thing because we need a solid housing sector to provide an underlying base to the economy, and slower appreciation will help to preserve long-term affordability. But this is a time for the Fed to pause on rate hikes because we have some interest-sensitive housing markets that have become vulnerable."
Existing-home sales are projected to drop 6.8 percent to 6.60 million this year from the record 7.08 million in 2005. New-home sales are forecast to fall 13.4 percent to 1.11 million from a record 1.28 million in 2005. Housing starts are likely to decline 6.2 percent to 1.94 million in 2006 compared with 2.07 million last year.
NAR President Thomas M. Stevens from Vienna, Va., said rising interest rates have slowed home sales in many high cost markets, while job growth has boosted sales in some moderately priced areas. "Broadly speaking, rising inventories have taken the pressure off of unsustainable home price growth," said Stevens, senior vice president of NRT Inc. "For most of the nation, this means future home price gains will be much closer to the normal returns we expect from housing." The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage should average 6.9 percent during the second half of the year, and the unemployment rate is expected to average 4.8 percent in 2006.