The first article, Pending home sales hit 6-year low, from MSNBC.com, reports that the National Association of Realtors index of pending home sales for existing homes fell 16.1 percent in July from a year ago and 12.2 percent from the prior month. The pending home sales index is designed to predict sales levels over the following two months. The July 2007 reading of 89.9 was the lowest since September 2001. "Numbers like this should put to rest the belief that we've reached the bottom" in the housing market, said Joel Naroff, chief economist at Commerce Bancorp Inc. "There's still a lot of pain that's ahead of us." The NAR attributes the decline to the fact that government sponsored mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae cannot package "jumbo" home loans above $417,000 into securities sold to investors. Some home purchases aren't closing because mortgage loans have been "falling through at the last moment," according to Lawrence Yun, senior economist for the NAR.
The second article, Surviving the slump, from the Arizona Republic, reports that the housing slump is affecting many local companies who's business rely on a strong real estate market. The article cites two firms-- Landiscor Aerial Information and engineering firm Coe & Van Loo Consultants and the impact that the slowing market has had on their business. RL Brown, housing analyst and publisher, said Arizona companies need to face reality and try to make money in the current housing climate, because a repeat of 2004 and '05 isn't going to happen. "Businesses that made a lot of money because of the housing market a few years ago better expect to give some of it back this year," he said. Many in the industry hoped for the housing market to rebound in early 2007, or at least by midyear. Now, the forecast is for housing to stop slowing sometime in mid 2008. Metro Phoenix housing sales and building permits are off 20 to 30 percent from last year, which was down 30 percent from 2005, according to Brown. Home prices are down about 5 percent, and foreclosures have climbed 10-fold. A record 50,000 plus homes are on the market and its taking them an average of 92 days to sell. "Metro Phoenix's housing market has a tough year or two ahead of it," said Tim Sullivan of San Diego-based Sullivan Group Real Estate Advisors. Still, the key is not to panic, he added. Local economist Elliott Pollack said that Phoenix is still drawing people and has an unemployment rate lower than the national average. "The area's growth bodes well for its housing market to rebound more quickly than other parts of the country," Pollack said.