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Relax, Housing Is OK After All: Opinion

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stop worrying about housing. The real estate recovery is doing fine.

That's the message from two big pieces of data Wednesday -- and also new disclosures by some of the industry's biggest players.

Plus, the fundamentals of housing's recovery haven't changed through this winter of cold winter that has chilled the economy for a spell. They're the same mix of good and needs-to-get-better as they were two months ago. That's decent news for investors and home owners, and better news for job seekers..

The newest macro data come from the Census Bureau, which says January new home sales rose 9.6% from January, hitting a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 468,000 single family homes and beating forecasts by more than 50,000 houses. At an average price of $322,800, that gap represents about $16 billion worth of unforeseen sales this year.

Earlier Wednesday, the Mortgage Bankers Association of America said applications for loans to buy houses dipped 4% on a seasonally adjusted basis. The association said applications were actually little changed -- it's just that the spring pickup in loan demand hasn't yet shown up this year.

In other words, the data say things are not too hot and not too cold. That's what the nation's big real estate companies are saying as well.

Realogy (RLGY), owner of Coldwell Banker and America's biggest real estate broker, said Tuesday that buyer traffic at its Web sites is up 10% from last year, in what CEO Richard Smith said is a sign that consumers are not backing off home shopping for this spring. He also pointed to signs of easier credit, which let more consumers buy, with Wells Fargo lowering its minimum FICO score for mortgage borrowers to 600 from 640, and that the percentage of home owners whose mortgage balance is more than their homes' value has fallen by half.

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