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Housing Market May Be Poised To Turn Around

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Sales of previously owned homes are rising nationally, according to data from a real estate broker trade association, in a trend that could signal sustained economic recovery.

Despite recent good signs in the job market and domestic manufacturing, the housing market—the collapse of which played a central role in the onset of the recession—has remained stubbornly shaky.  But according to a report by the National Association of Realtors, that market may be rebounding as well, with inventory down and, importantly, consumers feeling more confident.

“We have seen consumer confidence recover in the past couple of months,” said Lawrence Yun, the organization's chief economist. “Hopefully this is a genuine, sustained consumer confidence recovery that will have a big impact on home sales.”

However, he noted, there was a similar surge in consumer confidence last winter, which did not last.

Over the course of 2011, sales of previously-owned homes rose by about 1.7 percent. The Midwest saw the largest change, with sales of previously owned homes rising some 8.3 percent in December for an average discount of 7.9 percent over sale prices a year ago.

The price that homes are selling for has decreased slightly as well, another promising sign. Consumers are gaining confidence, according to the report, from low mortgage rates and the sense that they can catch a good deal as the market starts to rebound.

In spite of positive indicators for the economy, though, housing market details are a reminder of the tragic circumstances facing many individuals in the still-chilly economy. Nineteen percent of foreclosures in December, for example, were on foreclosed properties.

Some activists have approached housing issues from a more radical standpoint. Frustrated by the thought of habitable structures standing empty during a recession, organizers associated with Occupy Wall Street have worked to move homeless individuals into abandoned houses around the country.

The National Association of Realtors is a real estate trade and self-regulatory organization based in Chicago. The organization lobbies for the financial services industry and enforces a code of ethics among its members.

Jon Christian is a reporter with Campus Progress. Follow him on Twitter @Jon_Christian.

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