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Trulia: Housing Recovery Is 'Halfway There'

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- It's a long road to recovery for the U.S. housing market, but according to one major industry analyst, the journey to full recovery is roughly halfway compete.

Jed Kolko, chief economist for San Francisco-based online home sales and rental services provider Trulia says in its most recent housing barometer that the housing market is "51% back to normal" as 2012 draws to a close, compared with 28% in November 2011. The firm's Housing Barometer has risen by five points each in October and November.

"Does halfway back to normal mean the glass is half-full or half-empty?" he wrote in a Friday research note. "The half-empty view is that our three housing measures hit bottom (on average) in 2009, so it's taken the market a long time -- three years -- to get to the halfway mark. But the half-full view is that halfway back to normal is better than anyone -- myself included -- predicted for 2012 at the start of this year."

Home sales have risen by 7% across the U.S. in October and November, although the Northeast -- thanks primarily to Hurricane Sandy -- saw sales rates rise by just 3%. Trulia also notes that, on a year-to-year basis, U.S. housing starts are up 22%, which pegs housing starts at 37% "back to normal," with existing homes sales 73% "back to normal."

In addition, U.S. home delinquency and foreclosure rates are down by a combined 10.6%, putting the two categories 41% back to normal.

Meanwhile, the National Association of Home Builders says that "upward trends in recent months point to a slow and steady growth" in the U.S. housing market.

David Crowe, chief economist for the Washington, D.C.-based association, says the outlook is generally positive heading into the new year, but the housing market faces some headwinds against more robust growth.

"Consistent, positive reports on housing starts, permits, prices, new-home sales and builder confidence in recent months provide further confirmation that a gradual but steady housing recovery is under way across much of the nation," Crowe says. "However, stubbornly tight lending standards for homebuyers and builders, inaccurate appraisals and proposals by policymakers to tamper with the mortgage interest deduction could dampen future housing demand."

The "supply" side of the supply-and-demand equation is a key factor for legitimate growth next year, he adds.

"We are transitioning from a very low demand level, where most people hold themselves out of the marketplace, to a case where supply will start being the problem," Crowe says. "As we begin to build more homes to address that supply, the new home stock will be a much more important element of the recovery."

But Crowe says the residential market is only 40% back to full health, adding that the single-family market "has the farthest to go."

While opinions vary among housing analysts, at least a consensus is emerging that the country is on the right path to a full housing recovery -- with the worst of the journey already behind us.

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