Most people, including realtors, believe our slow but steady improvement in the real estate market is very encouraging. However, they are concerned about problems homebuyers encounter when trying to access their credit.
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Realtors expressed overall confidence in the market tempered by concerns regarding credit availability, according to the latest Realtors Confidence Index from the National Association of Realtors.
The survey revealed a confidence index of 59 in November, up slightly from 58 in October. A score of 50 indicates "moderate" market conditions, according to NAR.
Anticipated seasonal gains over the next six months led to an even higher score for the single-family home market. Realtors gave the sector an index rating of 64, up from 60 in October. However, realtors did express concerns regarding the regulatory environment and buyers' access to credit.
Among realtors who reported transactions in November but ultimately did not close a sale, 9 percent said the homebuyer could not obtain financing, and of those, 6 percent reported the buyer had given up on purchasing the home.
Lenders continue to require impeccable credit. More than half of survey respondents reported selling homes to buyers. According to NAR, if lenders returned to "normal" credit expectations, as many as 500,000 additional home sales could occur.
"Market incentives are clearly there for more lending for home purchases," Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, said. "The big unknown, however, is coming from Washington in terms of new mortgage regulations and of the increased lawsuit risks from any small deviation from government directives."
Q: What housing market changes will we see in 2014?
A: The housing market recovery is entering a new phase, according to the analysts at Capital Economics.
They say the rapid bounce in home prices seen during the past year, which was driven by investors and tight supply conditions, will soon start to moderate, and the next stage of the recovery will be characterized by strengthening activity among owner-occupants and mortgage-dependent buyers, as well as a much more moderate pace of house price inflation.
Q: Are most local markets back to normal housing activity?
A: A new index from the National Association of Home Builders and First American tracks more than 350 metro markets across the country to assess individual performance based on pre-crisis norms in terms of housing permits, prices and employment.
Currently, the index shows 56 markets have returned to their pre-housing crisis "norms," and more than 35 percent are at least 90 percent recovered.
Q: Is the median list price of homes still rising?
A: That depends on precisely what you are looking for. In keeping with historical seasonal trends, both housing inventory and median list price per square foot declined over the month of December.
At the same time, annual changes remained in line with previous years, according to Movoto Real Estate's State of the Market report . The online real estate broker said there were "no surprises" in the December numbers.
Q: Who use social media most: men or women?
A: Women take that prize. A new study by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project finds that women have a greater presence on every major social media network except LinkedIn.
Seventy-six percent of adult females who are online use Facebook, compared to only 66 percent of males. The greatest divide was on Pinterest (33 percent of women are active there, while only 8 percent of men are), but the study also found female-dominated gender splits in usage of Twitter (18 percent/17 percent) and Instagram (20/17).
On the work-centric LinkedIn, Pew said 24 percent of Internet-using men employ the site compared to 19 percent of women.
To find out more about Jim Woodard and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.