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The housing recovery isn’t over, it just feels like it is

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A slew of negative housing numbers for July are piling up on top of a slew of negative housing numbers from the last several months.

Sales of new and existing homes are falling, construction of single-family homes is basically flat for the year, mortgage rates are rising and affordability is weakening. It certainly feels like the housing recovery that really took off in the last four years has come to a grinding halt, but it hasn’t.

Is the ultra-hot and competitive housing market cooling off? Absolutely. Home prices rose too far, too fast, and the market is now hitting a price wall. We know that because the price gains are finally starting to shrink, according to a report this week from the National Association of Realtors. Anecdotally, real estate agents across the country are saying that their sellers are beginning to come back down to earth.

“I don’t think the recovery is over,” said Sam Khater, chief economist at Freddie Mac. “Economic growth is still very strong and essentially running at capacity. However, the consistent decline in housing affordability means there are fewer consumers who can afford to purchase a home.”

The reason the housing recovery isn’t over is because demand is very solid, and the price gains are starting to ease. As with all things real estate, however, location is key in this recovery.

“While the decline in home sales and deceleration in home price growth has been broad-based, the slowdown is more intense in the hot coastal markets — which is a natural reaction to rapidly escalating home prices and higher rates versus a year ago,” added Khater.

Improving market

“Recovery” is also not all about buying and selling houses. It is about the health of the housing market overall, and the market, while still too lean, is continuing to improve.

Foreclosure starts hit a 17-year low in June, according to Black Knight Inc., and mortgage delinquencies are at their lowest level in more than a decade. That includes a slight bump in troubled loans from states hit hard by last year’s hurricanes.

The vast majority of homeowners are paying their mortgages on time, and an increasing number of homeowners are putting a lot of money into their houses, raising the value and adding to the remodeling economy of materials and retailers.

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