There is a big difference between being optimistic and being less-than-pessimistic. When it comes to the wasteland we once called America’s real estate market, less pessimistic home builders are a good sign.
The National Association of Homebuilders/Wells Fargo index measured the confidence of the new housing front-liners at 21 for December, up two points from the previous month, but far from the 50 it takes to flip over to optimistic.
So, the builders are still bummed, but it's the third month in a row their pessimism has been less. And that three-month streak is the first we’ve seen since the great recession began in 2008.
Ted Gayer is co-director of economic studies at the Brookings Institution. He says yes, it is good news when things are getting less bad. Still, he's not ready to say the worst of it is past. Housing prices are still declining and people are struggling to qualify for mortgages, so it'll take more than three straight months of not-terrible news to truly signal a change.