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Will home sales bloom this spring?

It’s almost the first day of spring, traditionally the season for home sales to start gaining momentum.  And with a plethora of routine residential real estate economic reports due out this week, you might want to start planning your coverage of the always-hoped-for turnaround in the home sales stagnation that started nearly five years ago, after a mid-2007 pricing peak.

Of course, most readers and viewers are wondering gridlock is easing; you can start with forecasts from real estate agents, lenders, title companes and appraisers about what they are seeing so far; I lke this Steve Brown column from the Dallas Morning News (reprined on LoanSafe.org) as a good template for an overview of the season from a variety of sources.

Keep in mind not all sellers are occupants; you might scout around for people who have inherited property from recently deceased loved ones, or landlords, or recently married/partnered people looking to consolidate into one dwelling – those individuals might be saddled with multiple property tax/mortgage bills and probably fall into the ‘extremely motivated’ seller category  - a separate feature on those issues, including financing terms they may be willing to offer (does anyone do land contracts nowadays?) or selling homes furnished, or auctions and estate sales, might be a fresh and interesting angle.

As always, I urge you to consider a standing feature that chronicles the ups and downs of sellers and buyers throughout the season.  April 1 would be a good starting point for a blog or weekly blurb (it need not be prose, just a graphic with photo, caption and brief update) following consumers and/or a Realtor or two throughout the season.

Data scheduled to be released this week includes:

Tuesday: Housing starts, the new residential construction report, is due out from the U.S. Census Bureau; note that it also includes building permit activity and housing completions.  I also like a related report, characteristics of new housing.  While the numbers are not super-fresh, they suggest a lot of interesting questions for present-day builders, buyers and realtors about trends in construction and finish materials, square footage, number of bedrooms/bathrooms and other aspects of what today’s consumers are looking for in homes compared to in previous years.  Check it out.

Wednesday:  Existing home sales for February, from the National Associaton of Realtors; it’ll be interesting to see if unseasonably warm weather nationwide kick-started what traditionally is a tepid month for sales.  The Mortgage Bankers Association also posts their weekly round-up of loan application activity on Wednesdays; last week’s report said refinancing’s share of the pie had dipped a few percentage points but it still accounts for a whopping three-quarters of all home loan applications.  That’s a story in an of itself; who’s qualifying for refis, what monthly savings are they pocketing and what are they doing with the extra cash — anything to stimulate the local economy?

Thursday:  The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s home price index is expected; note the price appreciation interactive map.  Also, Bloomberg’s Consumer Comfort Index could provide some interesting context for stories about real estate buying and selling.

Friday: New home sales, another report from the census bureau.  The National Association of Home Builders is also a good resource on this topic; its website includes extensive links to sources of housing data.

About the Author

Veteran financial writer Melissa Preddy served as a business writer, editor and columnist for The Detroit News from 1995 to 2008, is a Michigan-based freelance journalist. She now works as a writer and editor for a medical research unit of the University of Michigan Medical School. Follow her daily posts. | E-mail: Melissa Preddy

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