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TheStreet Open House

Is Housing Risen From Ashes? 'Industry Has Come Back'




By Diana Olick, CNBC Correspondent

NEW YORK ( CNBC) -- Economists are saying it, and now even some Americans are saying it.

After falling to depths not seen since the Great Depression, the U.S. housing market may finally be rising from the ashes.

It may not seem like a lot, but 27% of Americans believe the value of their homes will increase in the next year, according the CNBC All America Economic Survey.

That is the highest percentage since 2007 and the third straight quarter that such optimism has gained.

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"Overall the housing industry has come back," said Standard and Poors' David Blitzer, commenting on Tuesday's release of the latest S&P/Case-Shiller home price indices. "We might finally get a little boost to the economy from the housing sector."

Home prices in the nation's top twenty markets rose 1.2% in July from a year ago, according to S&P/Case-Shiller.

All of those markets saw month-to-month price gains, while just four saw annual declines. Atlanta continues to see the largest drop, down just under ten percent year-over-year, but even its declines are easing.

In Phoenix, where distressed properties have made up the bulk of home sales, prices are up 16.6% from a year ago, due to big supply shortages of low-end homes.

Home prices are still down 30% from their peak in 2006, but just the prospect of a real bottom has some buyers finally getting off the fence. In addition, rising prices helped 1.3 million home owners to rise out of a negative equity position on their mortgages in the first half of this year, according to CoreLogic.

Nearly 11 million, or 22% of all borrowers, are still stuck in place, owing more on their mortgages than their homes are worth, and an additional 2.3 million have less than five percent equity in their homes, making a move up unlikely.

The latest numbers, from existing home sales to earnings from the big publichome builders, are fueling much-needed confidence in housing, but it would be naïve to declare that this industry is completely out of the woods.

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