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With Presidential Election Looming, Has the Housing Market Truly Improved?

by Peter Thomas Ricci

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RealtyTrac garnered attention with its scathing report on Obama’s housing policies, but Think Progress has fired back with its own housing market report.

By Peter Ricci

RealtyTrac, the oft-quoted real estate research firm based in Irvine, California, generated considerable buzz a couple weeks back when it published a stinging study arguing that nearly every available housing metric had worsened under President Obama’s watch.

With the presidential election just a day away(!), though, progressive website Think Progress has struck back with its own study, arguing in an equally convincing fashion that the housing market has dramatically improved since 2008.

Has the Housing Market Improved? Look to the Data

According to the data cited by Think Progress, just as the positive housing metrics (home sales, housing starts) have increased during Obama’s tenure, the negative metrics (foreclosures, distressed property sales) have decreased since the president took office in February 2009:

  • Total housing sales are up 18.4 percent, and though housing prices are down 1.9 percent, they are up 2.0 percent from a year ago.
  • The numbers for housing construction are even stronger – housing starts have increased 49.8 percent from February 2009, while housing permits have risen an formidable 60.2 percent.
  • On the opposite end of the spectrum, monthly foreclosure filings are down 37.9 percent from February 2009, and completed foreclosures on a monthly basis are down by 32.6 percent.
  • Foreclosure inventory, additionally, has fallen 12.3 percent, and the market share of distressed properties in existing-home sales is down 50.4 percent.

Housing Statistics Throw Down

So, who’s right and who’s wrong on the housing market? As our prior reporting has suggested, our interpretation of the data has been more on the optimistic side. For instance, privately-owned housing starts are on pace to rise 25 percent from 2011; homebuilder confidence has hit its highest mark since 2006; and The Wall Street Journal, among other outlets, are reporting that home prices bottomed in 2012 and will slowly rise in the coming months.

Does that mean that housing has improved enough to warrant four more years for President Obama? We’ll find out what voters think tomorrow night, when the election results are reported!

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