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2012: Good days ahead for housing

David Brancaccio Dec 29, 2011

There’s a great moment when you’re selling a house where the nice couple says we love, we want it, and they sign a contract to buy the thing from you. Yes, their mortgage might fall through. Sure, they might get cold feet, but that agreement is a big milestone — so much so, in fact, the National Association of Realtors tracks it.

The NAR Pending Home Sales index went up more than 7 percent in November. The experts had been expecting something much weaker, maybe in the 1.5-percent range. It’s the highest number of pending sales since the spring of 2010 when the Obama mortgage tax credit was set to expire.

Gerard Cassidy, the Managing Director of Bank Equity Research at RBC Capital Markets, says today’s numbers add to his belief that 2012 is the year the housing market is going to recover. That’s great news after more than four years in the doldrums.

Cassidy’s bullishness on housing is based on a couple facts. First, the level of inventory of new homes is at its lowest point since the records started being kept in 1963 — about 153,000 units. Second, this country is still growing at a rate of around 600,000 households a year. They are going to need some place to live.

Yes, foreclosures are still a problem, as are falling housing prices. But Cassidy says the U.S. economy is still vibrant and growing. When he looks ahead to 2012, Cassidy predicts the moon, the stars and the sun are aligning, and 2012 could be the year for housing to bounce back.

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