Real estate is seeing mixed signals from several reports that came out this week regarding the health of the market. A bumpy ride is certain, but how bumpy, and how long?

On the one hand, the National Association of Realtors’ pending home sales index for contracts signed in November fell 16 percent from October. Alarmingly, the index dropped highest, 25.7 percent in the Northeast, on par with Midwest. In the Northeast, it’s still 14/7 percent above November 2008 levels. On the other hand, that’s 15.5 percent higher than November 2008, prompting NAR’s chief economist Lawrence Yun to say that “the market has gained sufficient momentum on its own.” Yun predicts another surge in the spring, as buyers again rush to take advantage of the tax credit, which was extended to April. According to NAR, in addition to the 2 million people that have already used the credit, another 900,000 first-timers are expected to qualify, as well as 1.5 million repeat buyers.

Yun also offered that “mortgage interest rates cannot remain at rock-bottom levels for a sustained period and will likely inch higher in 2010.” But just two days later, on January 7, Freddie Mac revealed in its weekly survey that the 30-year fixed-rate averaged 5.09 percent for the week, down from the 5.14 percent of the preceding week. Fifteen-year averaged 4.5 percent, down from 4.54 percent the week prior. FIve-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages remained unchanged, however, at 4.44 percent. One-year Treasury-indexed ARMs were down to 4.31 percent from 4.33 percent. Yun, of course, is almost certainly right in the long-term, as the Federal Reserve is likely to raise its overnight rate in 2010–but Freddie Mac’s chief economist warned that no Fed action is likely until the second half of the year.

Meanwhile, the Mortgage Bankers Association’s weekly survey found that the week ending December 25 has a 22.8-percent decrease in loan application volume, and the week ending January 1 the index stayed “relatively the same,” increasing a half a percent. Seventy percent of all mortgage activity, the report noted, was refinancing. The drop in loan applications may be due to holiday vacations for some–others, however, stayed as busy as ever all through the holidays, We certainly did here at Elika.

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