Housing outlook points to growth

Posted on August 23, 2012

The recovery of the U.S. housing market is looking steadier and more sustainable, a trend that will likely add to economic growth in 2012 for the first time in seven years.

Purchases, construction and prices are gradually but consistently increasing.

Sales of previously occupied homes rose 2.3 percent in July from June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.47 million, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday. During the past 12 months, sales have jumped more than 10 percent.

Sales have been stronger in Michigan, which experienced a nearly 14 percent increase in July from the same time a year ago, according to the Michigan Association of Realtors. For the first seven months of the year, sales have risen 10.4 percent from the year before.

Year-over-year data is considered more statistically significant than monthly changes.

New-home sales have been strengthening, too. Toll Brothers, a builder of high-end homes, said Wednesday that it’s enjoying its most sustained demand in more than five years.

The “evidence that the housing market is recovering … is fairly clear across a wide range of reports,” said John Ryding, an economist at RDQ Economics, a forecasting firm. Housing “is now becoming a small positive for the economic outlook.”

Michelle Meyer, an economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, forecasts that home construction will add 0.2 percentage points to growth this year. That would make 2012 the first full calendar year in which housing has added to growth since 2005.

Other recent reports add to the picture of an improving housing market.

Christoher S. Rugaber, Associated Press