“We’re wiping out just about all of the decline,” Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors, told NBC.com about recent housing data showing home prices inching up. “It indicates the market has turned the corner on the pricing side.”
Some recent housing indexes suggest that the “bottom” of the market was reached in January 2012. Since that time, housing prices have been picking up in many housing markets.
But “the turnaround in home prices was unexpected,” says Patrick Newport, an economist with IHS Global Insight. “The conventional wisdom in February, following that landmark agreement (of the $26 billion mortgage settlement with the nation’s five largest banks), was that we would see a surge in foreclosures of some size that would lead to lower home prices. This surge never materialized and home prices have turned.”
Newport points to several signs of a housing market on the mend. For one, housing starts are up after reaching a low in the fourth quarter of 2011. Also, he says the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s (FHFA) monthly House Price Index shows a 3.7 percent increase in May year-over-year, which he notes is higher than inflation and “means that real housing wealth, a consumer spending driver, was also up.”
The increase in home prices is also leading to a fewer number of homeowners underwater on their mortgages. The number of underwater homeowners fell from 12.1 million at the end of 2011 to 11.4 million at the end of the first quarter this year, according to CoreLogic data.