Earlier this month, the  National Association of Realtors® reported that a modest near-term movement is expected in existing-home sales, with a recovery in sales seen during the second half of the year. 

Other information that the NAR shared regarded the Pending Home Sales Index—a forward-looking indicator based on contracts signed in May. The index fell 4.7 percent to 84.7 from an upwardly revised reading of 88.9 in April, and remains 14.0 percent below May 2007 when it stood at 98.5.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said some pullback after a sharp increase in the previous month was expected. “The overall decline in contract signings suggests we are not out of the woods by any means. The housing stimulus bill that is still being considered in the Senate is critical to assure a healthy recovery in the housing market, jobs and the economy,” he said.

It’s no surprise that Yun said location has never mattered more than in the current market. “Some markets have seen a doubling in home sales from a year ago, while others are seeing contract signings cut in half. Price conditions vary tremendously, even within a locality, depending upon a neighborhood’s exposure to subprime loans.”

As the NAR President, Richard Gaylord pointed out, this market offers immediate benefits and long-term value for many buyers.  “Home are getting a great deal right now. Although inflationary expectations appear to be under control the time being, sharper consumer price gains could lead to notably higher mortgage interest rates in 2009.”

Based on current indicators, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is forecast to rise gradually to 6.5 percent by the end of this year, and then hold at that level for most of 2009.

Greenville, NC—Pitt County     

Locally, the Pitt County area remains a market  less adversely  affected by the extreme reactions to the subprime loans. Generally speaking, the Greenville, NC area is still somewhat insulated from the harshest aftershocks felt by many areas of the country.

No matter how insulated our market is, though, unfortunately we are not immune. According to recent statistics from the Pitt County-Greenville, NC Board of Realtors®  Multiple Listing Service (MLS) statistics, single family house sales are down 20% YTD Jan-June, as compared to last year for the same period. Townhouses are down 28.8% and Condos are down 36.7%. Keep in mind Jan-June was the best half of 2007 for sales.

In many instances, our insulation factor relies on individuals relocating to Pitt County—for a variety of reasons. And quite often, these same individuals are left owning a house that won’t sell in the upside-down market they’re leaving behind.

So indirectly, their market affects our market. No matter how much the  newcomers would like to become Pitt County homeowners, they’re forced to delay purchasing in Greenville, NC—often, renting a house or apartment instead.

Not surprising, another trend the  Pitt County area is witnessing  is a sharp increase in sellers renting their houses. As a direct result of the soft housing market in the Greenville, NC  area, houses are not selling at the price or pace they have in the past. 

Depending on their situation, some sellers must choose to either rent or sell at a sales price lower than hoped for and move on, while other sellers are electing to wait until the market  returns to  where it meets their expectations.

Affecting both the national and our local housing market, uplifting news seems to be on the horizon. A newly released survey commissioned by Move, Inc., a leader in online real estate, revealed that nearly half of all home buyers (44%) believe the housing market will improve once the new President takes office in January 2009.

And despite some reservations about perceived barriers such as the cost of down payment, the survey indicates  underlying demand for homeownership is healthy. Survey statistics also reveal that nearly half (41%) of current homeowners plan to purchase a home again, and 80% of all renters plan to purchase a home someday with 47% planning to purchase a home within the next five years.  Perhaps the most encouraging fact of the survey reveals that homebuyers are more than willing to make sacrifices to afford down payments in order to purchase a home, maintaining that homeownership continues to be the American dream.