Housing Market Bottom Will Signal Recovery

Investors were told to look to to the housing market for signals that the market has bottomed. If that thesis is correct, then perhaps we're already there. (Clarification Barry Ritholz points out the media has largely misinterpreted the data. Sales were up from January to February, but still down 41 percent year over year). On the flip side, Marcus & Millichap says retail real estate may not recover until 2012. And it probably didn't help that the lead story in the Wall Street Journal talked of commercial property facing a crisis.

Investors will know an economic recovery is under way when the housing market finds price stability and foreclosures moderate. That's the majority view of a regional real estate investment group.

“During the housing boom, consumer spending grew faster than income because their wealth was fueled by home equity,” said Sam Chandan, president and chief economist of New York-based Real Estate Economics LLC. “Households lost $5 trillion of wealth in the fourth quarter and about $2 trillion in the third. It's unprecedented.”

Chandan's remarks came during a meeting this week of the Southeast chapter of the Real Estate Investment Advisory Council (REIAC), where roughly 165 members voted electronically on current economic topics, offering an instant snapshot of the developers' and investors' concerns. Kieran Quinn, vice chairman of Bethesda, Md.-based Walker & Dunlop and outgoing chairman of the Mortgage Bankers Association, served as moderator.

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