Housing on the cusp of recovery?

Existing home sales rose a healthy 4% last month, and coupled with the rise in housing starts could mean that the housing sector has finally turned the corner.


The National Association of Realtors said on Wednesday existing home sales increased 4 percent month over month to an annual rate of 4.42 million units.

October's sales pace was revised down to a 4.25 million-unit pace, which was previously reported as a 4.97 million-unit rate.

The Realtors group revised down data from 2007 to 2010 to show average annual sales down 14.3 percent at 4.42 million units instead of the previously estimated 5.16 million units.

It said sales troughed at 3.30 million-unit pace in July 2010, rather than 3.86 million, underscoring the depth of the housing market downturn.

Still, the rise in sales last month was the latest to suggest the housing market, which triggered the 2007-09 recession, was on the cusp of a recovery. Data on Tuesday showed housing starts scaled a 1-1/2 year high in November.

There is still a 2.5 million surplus of homes - more than 500,000 of which are empty - that need to be sold before home values can start to truly recover. Many of those empty homes are hollow shells, trashed by former owners, squatters, or just routine vandalism. It is a safe bet that home values may take a decade to recover their worth from 2006 before the meltdown.

But the market had to bottom out before it could begin to rise. And we appear to be at or near that point now.