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30-city real estate outlook

Slow-motion sales in many housing markets have folks struggling for survival. Add the subprime crisis and talk of a recession, and you can expect another rough year for residential real estate.

"There's not a market that's immune at this point," says Chris Porter, manager with John Burns Real Estate Consulting.

For a look at 30 top markets, Bankrate sought forecasts from those who follow trends in home sales and prices, as well as factors such as foreclosures and job growth.

All agree that existing home sales and housing starts will continue to decline in 2008. But opinions differ on when improvement in resales and new home sales will occur.

Panel of experts
  • Ken Fears, National Association of Realtors.
  • Bernard Markstein, senior economist and director of forecasting. National Association of Home Builders.
  • David Stiff, chief economist, Fiserv Lending Solutions.
  • Chris Porter, manager, John Burns Real Estate Consulting.
  • Ingo Winzer, president, Local Market Monitor.

Ups and downs
David Stiff's U.S. forecast shows prices hitting bottom in the middle of 2009.

"Some prices don't start to bottom out until early 2010," he says. But in key markets where the rate of appreciation accelerated faster than household income growth -- like many cities in California and Florida, as well as Phoenix, Las Vegas and Washington, D.C. -- he expects prices to drop by 20 percent or more.

Nationally, Fiserv projects a 13.1 percent decline in home prices from the third quarter of 2007 to the third quarter of 2008, with the numbers continuing to decrease the following year -- by 2.8 percent from the third quarter of 2008 to the third quarter of 2009.

The NAR forecasts that existing home sales will remain weak for all of 2008, with the worst happening in the middle, and improving slightly toward the end of the year, Ken Fears says. For all of 2008, existing-home sales are likely to total 5.39 million, and then rise 6.1 percent to 5.72 million next year.

"New home sales will be off sharply," Fears says. "That's good; that's not a bad thing for the market because all it does is reduce supply."

Housing starts are expected to hit bottom likely in the middle of the year, says the NAHB's Bernard Markstein.

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"We're the optimists," says Markstein.

The homebuilder organization is forecasting a little more than 1 million housing starts -- 719,000 single-family, 284,000 multifamily -- this year. Last year, there were roughly 1.15 million starts, according to preliminary fourth quarter data. That's compared to about 2.1 million during the peak in 2005, Markstein says.

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