ASHEVILLE, NC – Prudential Lifestyle Realty has done its research. It has found fresh data from several respected sources, that confirms what many local REALTORS® and mortgage brokers had already predicted – a more optimistic outlook for Asheville area real estate in 2009.
Compelling evidence that confidence is returning to the markets can be seen in recent data related to the pace of home sales and mortgage lending activity. The Federal Home Loan Corporation or "Freddie Mac" reports that mortgage interest rates are now at historically low levels, dipping below five percent. Not since Freddie Mac began keeping records back in 1971 have reliable and safe 30-year fixed rates been that cheap and attractive.
The "Home Affordability Index" compiled by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) also broke a record held since the early 1970s. According to that closely watched index, homes across the USA are now more affordable overall than they have been in nearly four decades.
According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, banks are seeing a surge in loan applications, both for buyers and for homeowners wanting to refinance. CEO Ken Lewis of Charlotte-based Bank of America told reporters that the bank increased its staff by some 5,000 people in order to meet the increased mortgage loan processing demand. To ensure that the housing sector continues its recovery, the government is also busy.
The Fed is investing some $1.5 trillion in mortgage-backed securities. This proactive strategy aids banks that have been burdened by mortgages that private investors have been reluctant to purchase. That, in turn, makes retail mortgages more affordable for average consumers as banks return to normalcy. President Obama also launched the successful Making Home Affordable initiative, an FHA program that is helping homeowners avoid foreclosure through loan modifications that reduce their monthly payments.
But one of the biggest reasons that Asheville area property sales are expected to rise is that first-time buyers are eligible for a huge $8,000 tax break from the IRS. The official definition of a "first-time" home buyer is someone who has not purchased a home within the past three years, and that broad category includes many people in WNC. According to Standard & Poor’s / Case-Shiller Index, median prices for single family homes nationwide have fallen by about 30 percent from peak levels reached back in 2006. While loss of value has been problematic, it has also yielded a positive outcome that is a fundamental necessity before markets can experience a sustainable recovery. Plummeting prices have effectively eliminated the kind of frenzied excess that caused the hazardous housing price bubble to expand in the first place – and ultimately go bust.
Springtime is traditionally the busiest time of year for the real estate industry, because as the weather improves it becomes easier for people to browse neighborhoods, tour properties, and shop for homes and condos. Based on all the positive statistical data this should be a good season for sales, and that will set the stage for improvement throughout the rest of 2009.