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Housing recovery slow but steady

Sign outside a house in Pasadena, Calif. indicates a reduced sale price

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Scott Jagow: Instead of looking back on 2008, we're looking forward to 2009. Today, the question is, what will happen in the housing market? Our Senior Business Correspondent Bob Moon joins us.
Bob, what do you have for us?

Bob Moon: I've been reading a lot of quotes from a lot of different experts, and nobody seems to be able to agree on what's going to happen. In fact, it might be more reliable to consult . . . with my Magic 8 Ball here. Let's see what it says: "Ask again later."

Jagow: That doesn't help very much!

Moon: It doesn't. But the experts say -- and this is a little bit more studied -- the experts say that we're gonna have a very long, very slow, but steady recovery, perhaps starting sometime around the middle of 2009.

Jagow: What is the turnaround going to depend on?

Moon: Well, there are two key factors here. First of all: jobs. If you don't have a job, you're not gonna buy a home. And the pool of perspective buyers is going to shrink if more and more people are losing their jobs. The other is the availability of mortgages, the level of lending that the banks are going to offer. So far, we know that hasn't been good.

Jagow: But in terms of what's available with credit and loans, I mean we hear so many different things. What is the real situation out there?

Moon: The easiest loans to get in the coming year are probably going to be FHA, Federal Housing Administration loans, or VA, Veterans' Affairs loans. The down payment required for those is around 3.5 percent, or even less in some cases. And a first-time buyer isn't gonna to have to worry so much about their credit score. There are also conventional loans out there, although it does help to have a very good credit score to qualify, and you can expect to scrape up around as much as 20 percent for a down payment. The National Associations of Realtors just the other day, though, issued a statement pressing the government to free up even more credit. They say yes, there are loans out there to be had, but there are interested buyers that are still facing a lot of road blocks.

Jagow: And what about interest rates? We saw that they've been dropping to levels we haven't seen in about four decades. How might that possibly open things up?

Moon: That's really the big hope here, with home builders, with lenders, that mortgage rates are going to stay low. If they do, that is going to help the housing market in the year ahead, because it will make buying a home a lot more attractive. So the Federal Reserve is going to be doing all it can to keep those rates low.

Jagow: All right, our senior business correspondent, Bob Moon. Thanks.

Moon: Thanks, Scott.

About the author

Bob Moon is Marketplace’s senior business correspondent, based in Los Angeles.

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