NAR Reports That Home Sales Declined in August


(Source: NAR) — After reaching a two-year peak, pending home sales fell in August but are at elevated levels compared with a year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

The Pending Home Sales Index,* a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, declined 2.6 percent to 99.2 in August from an upwardly revised 101.9 in July but is 10.7 percent above August 2011 when it was 89.6. The data reflect contracts but not closings.

Contract activity in July 2012 was at the highest level since April 2010 when buyers were rushing to beat the deadline for the home buyer tax credit.

Lawrence Yun , NAR chief economist, said some volatility can be expected in the monthly readings. “The performance in month-to-month contract signings has been uneven with ongoing shortages of lower priced inventory in much of the country, and across most price ranges in the West, but activity has remained at notably higher levels this year,” Yun said.

“The index shows 16 consecutive months of year-over-year increases, and that has translated into a higher number of closed sales. Year-to-date existing-home sales are 9 percent above the same period last year, but sales were relatively flat from 2008 through 2011,” Yun added.

Existing-home sales this year are expected to rise 9 percent to 4.64 million, and gain another 8 percent in 2013 to nearly 5.02 million. With generally balanced inventory conditions in many areas, the median existing-home price is projected to rise about 5 percent in both 2012 and 2013.

The PHSI in the Northeast rose 0.9 percent to 78.2 in August and is 19.9 percent above August 2011. In the Midwest the index declined 2.6 percent to 95.0 in August but is also 19.9 percent higher than a year ago. Pending home sales in the South slipped 1.1 percent to an index of 110.4 in August but are 13.2 percent above August 2011. With broad inventory shortages in the West, the index fell 7.2 percent in August to 102.5 and is 4.2 percent below a year ago.

Housing starts are forecast to stay on an uptrend and reach 1.12 million next year, but will remain well below long-term underlying demand with builders facing obstacles in obtaining construction loans.



NewAmericanFunding

Growth in the Gross Domestic Product should be 2.5 percent in 2013.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

# # #

* The Pending Home Sales Index is a leading indicator for the housing sector, based on pending sales of existing homes. A sale is listed as pending when the contract has been signed but the transaction has not closed, though the sale usually is finalized within one or two months of signing.

The index is based on a large national sample, typically representing about 20 percent of transactions for existing-home sales. In developing the model for the index, it was demonstrated that the level of monthly sales-contract activity parallels the level of closed existing-home sales in the following two months.

An index of 100 is equal to the average level of contract activity during 2001, which was the first year to be examined as well as the first of five consecutive record years for existing-home sales; it coincides with a level that is historically healthy.

NOTE: Existing-home sales for September will be reported October 19 and the next Pending Home Sales Index will be on October 25; release times are 10:00 a.m. EDT.

Source: NAR


Realtors PAC spends more than $1 million on Inland Empire congressional race

A national super PAC representing the National Association of Realtors is spending big money to support Rep. Gary Miller’s effort to remain in Congress.

The National Association of Realtors Congressional Fund last week reported its expenditure of $355,000 in independent direct mail expenditures to support Miller’s campaign. That figure, which by itself dwarfs all independent expenditures made in support of Miller’s opponent, is but fraction of what the Realtors group has spent in support of Miller.

In all, the National Association of Realtors has spent more than $1.2 million through the Primary and General election campaigns to support Miller.

Miller’s opponent, state Sen. Bob Dutton, has received just short of $70,000 from another PAC, Inland Empire Taxpayers for Jobs

In April, Miller and other local lawmakers including Reps. Joe Baca, Jerry Lewis and Grace Napolitano wrote a letter opposing the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s plan to sell foreclosed homes in bulk to institutional investors.

Scott Reiter, the Realtors’ political director, said their support for Miller is in part for that stance, as well as Miller’s support for such policies as the home mortgage interest deductions and membership of the House Financial Services Committee.

“We have a policy of supporting incumbents, and Congressman Miller has been a supportive incumbent extraordinaire. He’s a real champion of homeownership,” Reiter said.

The race

for the 31st Congressional District is one of the many California campaigns in which prominent members of the same political party are competing against each other this fall under a new law that is transforming election politics in this state.

Dutton and Miller are both Republicans serving in elective office. Miller currently serves in the House of Representatives, where he represents a Diamond Bar district that includes parts of western San Bernardino County and extends as far south as the Mission Viejo area in Orange County.

Dutton serves in the state Senate, where he represents a Rancho Cucamonga-based district that runs eastward to Redlands.

The newly-drawn 31st Congressional District allows Dutton to run for higher office in a territory approximating his current district, but the incumbent House member Miller has a considerable edge in direct and indirect fundraising support.

Miller not only has a 15-to-1 indirect expenditure advantage over Dutton, but also enjoys a substantial lead in direct contributions, having raised nearly $858,000 to Dutton’s $169,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.


Reach Andrew via email, call him at 909-483-8550, or find him on Twitter @InlandBizz.

Realtors PAC spends more than $1 million on Inland Empire congressional race

A national super PAC representing the National Association of Realtors is spending big money to support Rep. Gary Miller’s effort to remain in Congress.

The National Association of Realtors Congressional Fund last week reported its expenditure of $355,000 in independent direct mail expenditures to support Miller’s campaign. That figure, which by itself dwarfs all independent expenditures made in support of Miller’s opponent, is but fraction of what the Realtors group has spent in support of Miller.

In all, the National Association of Realtors has spent more than $1.2 million through the Primary and General election campaigns to support Miller.

Miller’s opponent, state Sen. Bob Dutton, has received just short of $70,000 from another PAC, Inland Empire Taxpayers for Jobs

In April, Miller and other local lawmakers including Reps. Joe Baca, Jerry Lewis and Grace Napolitano wrote a letter opposing the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s plan to sell foreclosed homes in bulk to institutional investors.

Scott Reiter, the Realtors’ political director, said their support for Miller is in part for that stance, as well as Miller’s support for such policies as the home mortgage interest deductions and membership of the House Financial Services Committee.

“We have a policy of supporting incumbents, and Congressman Miller has been a supportive incumbent extraordinaire. He’s a real champion of homeownership,” Reiter said.

The race

for the 31st Congressional District is one of the many California campaigns in which prominent members of the same political party are competing against each other this fall under a new law that is transforming election politics in this state.

Dutton and Miller are both Republicans serving in elective office. Miller currently serves in the House of Representatives, where he represents a Diamond Bar district that includes parts of western San Bernardino County and extends as far south as the Mission Viejo area in Orange County.

Dutton serves in the state Senate, where he represents a Rancho Cucamonga-based district that runs eastward to Redlands.

The newly-drawn 31st Congressional District allows Dutton to run for higher office in a territory approximating his current district, but the incumbent House member Miller has a considerable edge in direct and indirect fundraising support.

Miller not only has a 15-to-1 indirect expenditure advantage over Dutton, but also enjoys a substantial lead in direct contributions, having raised nearly $858,000 to Dutton’s $169,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.


Reach Andrew via email, call him at 909-483-8550, or find him on Twitter @InlandBizz.

Leigh Anne Losh Accepted in the CRB Management Certification Program

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Leigh Anne Losh Accepted in the CRB Management Certification Program

STAUNTON — Leigh Anne Losh, a Staunton member of Help-U-Sell Direct Savings Real Estate, has been accepted as a Candidate in the nationally recognized CRB, (Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager) Management Certification Program.

Losh said, ”Help-U-Sell Direct Savings Real Estate has saved our clients over $525,000 in commissions. Full Service, Big Savings and being the real estate expert is very important to me, that is one of the reasons I applied to the CRB Program”

The Council of Real Estate Brokerage Managers (CRB), an affiliate of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, is the professional organization for brokerage management. The Council is dedicated to providing quality professional development programs, products and services that continually enhance the management productivity and profitability of its more than 7,000 members.

The CRB Designation is recognized throughout the industry as the highest level of professional achievement — a symbol of excellence in brokerage management. The most successful brokerages are owned or managed by professionals having the coveted CRB Designation.

The Council awards the CRB Designation to those individuals who successfully complete the requirements and demonstrate excellence in real estate brokerage management. Candidates must complete academic and professional courses covering such topics as finance, marketing, training, recruiting, and strategic planning.

Leigh Anne Losh is a real estate brokerage manager for Help-U-Sell Direct Savings Real Estate at 362 South Laurel Avenue in Waynesboro. A member of the GREATER AUGUSTA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS Board of REALTORS®, HARRISONBURG ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS, and the Virginia ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, Leigh Anne Losh has also been a volunteer at Swoope Volunteer Fire Company since 2007.

The Council of Real Estate Brokerage Managers (CRB) is the central source for brokerage management information and education and is the voice for real estate brokers and managers within the industry. Members are at the forefront of new developments in brokerage management. For more information, call the Council Services Department at 800-621-8738 or visit www.crb.com

More from Business

Real estate broker Gary Thomas believed he could make a difference.

And for over more than two decades, he did.


Article Tab: Orange County broker Gary Thomas will be sworn in as president of the National Association of Realtors on Nov. 8 at NAR's annual convention in Orlando, Fla.


By applying his powers of “strategic thinking,” the Mission Viejo Realtor helped streamline his profession, consolidating a balkanized collection of small associations and listing services into bigger, more efficient groups.

He formed for-profit business units to help subsidize Realtor operations and he created standardized forms to improve the industry’s professionalism.

He did it first in Orange County, then throughout California. Now, he’s training his sights on the nation.

On Nov. 8, Thomas, 68, will be elevated to the highest office in realty, taking the oath as the 2013 president of the National Association of Realtors. He will be the first NAR president from Orange County in at least 84 years.

“I can make a difference,” Thomas said at his real estate office in Villa Park last week. “A lot of leaders come in and are on autopilot. I like to come in, look ahead and make things even better.”

But others say Thomas is unfit to lead the nation’s foremost real estate group because he filed for personal and corporate bankruptcy in the past 17 months, walking away from millions of dollars in debts.

“Is there credibility in this person leading our industry and being the voice for 1 million-plus (NAR) members?” asked RE/MAX President Vinnie Tracey, who’s so opposed to Thomas becoming president he asked the NAR board to give him the boot.

“The NAR president should be the best and the brightest. He should be a pillar of the industry and be beyond reproach,” Tracey said.

Supporters counter that you can’t blame a Realtor for misfortunes suffered in the worst real estate crash in 70 years.

“I’ve dealt with so many people that have had significant business reversals in the last five years,” said Joel Singer, executive vice president of the California Association of Realtors and a 25-year acquaintance of Thomas’. “That, to me, is unfortunate, but hardly unique.”

Sales acumen

Gary Okla Thomas was born in Joplin, Mo., and grew up in Manhattan Beach.

He got his middle name from his dad, named by an Oklahoma teacher who was a Sooner through and through.

Father Okla Thomas’ twin brother’s name? Homa.

Thomas got his real estate acumen from his parents, who ran Sea Realty in Manhattan Beach.

Thomas had been working for State Farm Insurance for about 10 years when co-workers at the Santa Ana office became curious about his life as a resident of Mission Viejo, a new town when Thomas and his wife, Frances, moved there in 1969.

“I would bring them down and show them around,” Thomas said. “I thought, ‘Well, maybe I should get my (real estate) license and sell.’ “

He did, and after just six months, he was making twice as much in real estate as he was at his day job. He soon quit State Farm, and within 10 years, was running his own RE/MAX office. Eventually, he owned 14 RE/MAX offices from Aliso Viejo to Anaheim Hills.

Making a difference

In the mid-1980s, Thomas was asked to join the budget and finance committee of what was then the Saddleback Board of Realtors.

Through the years, he rose through the ranks, becoming Saddleback’s treasurer and president, a board member of the California Association of Realtors and, in 2001, the statewide association president.

He kept at it because he enjoyed the work and because he made a difference.

Thomas became a leader in the battle to merge eight to 10 separate Realtor boards into today’s two dominant groups – the Orange County and the Pacific West associations of Realtors.

He also got involved in merging separate multiple listing services, or MLS’s, first in Orange County, then in the state as a whole.

When NAR began forming a committee to link efforts of MLS’s nationwide, Thomas was named its chairman.

“Gary was very instrumental in planting the seeds for a statewide MLS. He was the one behind it,” said Nancy Gilmore, CEO of the Pacific West Association of Realtors.

Bankruptcy and debt

But the housing crash of the past seven years hit Thomas’ business hard.

To save money, Thomas quit RE/MAX and formed his own chain, Altera Real Estate.

In late 2008, RE/MAX sued Thomas for failing to pay more than $1.7 million in fees and dues owed under his franchise agreement. He settled out of court for $1.2 million.

Court records show several lawsuits filed by landlords accusing Altera of failing to pay rent.

In January 2011, an Altera Real Estate agent sued Thomas, accusing him of failing to pay $128,000 in commissions she had earned from the sale of five homes. When she asked for payment, Thomas told her Altera had used her commissions to cover operating expenses, the lawsuit said.

Fifteen days after the agent sued, Thomas’ corporation filed for bankruptcy. He filed for personal bankruptcy this past June.

The combined personal and corporate debts from the two bankruptcies totaled $13.2 million, while the combined assets totaled $1.7 million.

Thomas’ creditors likely will get pennies on the dollar when the bankruptcies are completed.

In May 2011, Newport Beach Realtor and landlord Bill Cote sued Thomas for failing to pay about $58,000 in rent for an Altera office in Corona del Mar, court records show. Because of the bankruptcy, Cote hasn’t been paid.

“He was a payment problem nearly from the moment he took occupancy,” Cote said recently. Thomas denied the accusation.

After the bankruptcies, Thomas’ empire shrank to one Evergreen Realty office in Villa Park. In June, he sold his Coto de Caza home for less than he owed on it and moved into an apartment. He said it may be a year or two before he can become a homeowner again.

Questions raised

RE/MAX’s Vinnie Tracey said he began advocating in January that NAR prevent Thomas – now the president-elect – not be elevated to president.

Last March, he met in Chicago with NAR Executive Vice President Dale Stinton, NAR President Maurice Veissi, past President Ron Phipps and other board members and made his final pitch.

“I don’t think this is good for the industry,” Tracey recalled telling the NAR brass. “We have an obligation to let people know who (Thomas) is. I’m the guy standing up for what’s right.”

NAR President Moe Veissi said a long and arduous vetting process took place over years before Thomas was picked for president and that an additional inquiry was launched in response to Tracey’s concerns. Thomas answered questions to the board’s satisfaction.

“It’s at least a five- to seven-year process to get into a position to be considered as president,” Veissi said. “He’s been vetted and is qualified to lead the National Association of Realtors.”

Tracey concedes that Thomas didn’t do anything morally wrong. But he worries that his bankruptcy and financial problems could be a distraction – if not an embarrassment for Realtors.

“The real truth is hundreds of thousands of Realtors didn’t file bankruptcy and managed their businesses — and honored their commitments,” Tracey said.

Cote, the Newport Beach landlord, agreed.

“He is fiscally and financially unqualified to lead the largest real estate trade organization in this country,” Cote said. “He walked away from all of his responsibilities, both corporate and personal.”

A strong hand

About half of 30 agents now working for Thomas stuck with him through the bankruptcy. Associates up and down the Realtor ranks called him a man of integrity, competence and class.

“Some came up through the ranks through different avenues. Gary came up as a working broker, someone who understands people’s businesses,” said Vince Malta, one of several former CAR presidents interviewed for this story. “He not only knows the public policy side, he knows the business side of the organization.”

Long-time associates say that Thomas is a consensus builder, a good listener with a calm, reassuring demeanor. He’s a quiet force with a strong hand, associates said. A high-energy guy who makes good use of his time.

“Has he had some unfortunate situations? Like all of us, yes,” said former NAR President Dick Gaylord of Long Beach. “But I don’t think anyone thinks he’s anything but competent, hardworking and honest.”

Contact the writer: 714-796-7734 or jcollins@ocregister.com

Related:

Local Realtor achieves national recognition

KOMAR

KOMAR


Raymond Komar, broker/owner of Komar Real Estate in Camarillo has been awarded the Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES) designation by the Seniors Real Estate Specialist Council of the National Association Of Realtors (NAR).

Komar is one of only 16,000 real estate professionals in North America who have earned the SRES designation. All were required to successfully complete a comprehensive course in understanding the needs, considerations, and goals of real estate buyers and sellers aged 55 and older.

The SRES Council, founded in 2007, is the world’s largest association of real estate professionals focusing specifically on representing senior clients in real estate transactions. There are more than 16,000 active members of the organization worldwide.

The National Association Of Realtors, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.3 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

Komar can be reached by phone at 504-1660, or send email to rmkomar@aol.com.

For more information about the Seniors Real Estate Specialist Council, phone 800-500-4564, or send e-mail, to SRES@realtors.org. On the Web, visit www.sres.org.

Commerce Department, Realtors Association Release Latest Reports

Waterfront Properties and Club Communities agents agree with the economic analysis of the new data that points to a mounting real-estate recovery.

JUPITER, Fla. (PRWEB) September 28, 2012

New sales of existing, single-family homes came in at a respectable rate – 373,000 – in August compared to the same month in 2011, according to a U.S. Commerce Department report.

The rate is a 27.7-percent, year-over-year increase, even though it’s slightly less than the 374,000 homes sold in July.

Waterfront Properties and Club Communities in Jupiter is one of many real-estate firms that has helped move transactions forward and get the all-important housing industry back on track.

When news agency Reuters surveyed economists about the Commerce Department data, the economists overwhelmingly said it is further evidence of a mounting real-estate recovery. More evidence includes a robust outlook by homebuilders – a critically important factor in the quest for the industry to return as a driver of the economy.

The National Association of Realtors’ report on home sales paints a larger picture. The agency said sales shot up 7.8 percent, to 4.82 million transactions for the year. Analysts had predicted the annual rate to come in at 4.55 million units.

The Commerce Department also released figures on housing starts, saying they climbed 2.3 percent in August. The annual, seasonally adjusted rate for starts is 750,000, compared to July’s 733,000. The year-over-year improvement is 29.1 percent.

Another significant statistic released this month involves the average price of a new home. The price increased to $256,000 in August, a number not seen since 2007. That’s a 17-percent jump from 2011.

Agents at Waterfront Properties are seeing the Palm Beach County housing market mirror – and in some instances exceed – the national trends. Homes for sale in Palm Beach Gardens are hot property, as South Florida enters its official season.

Other hot property as the winter months approach is Juno Beach condos for sale. The year-round warm weather attracts northerners to the sandy beaches and sparkling seas that serve as the vista from their condo balconies.

For information about Palm Beach Gardens, Juno Beach and the other communities in which Waterfront Properties lists, call 561-746-7272.

For the original version on PRWeb visit: http://www.prweb.com/releases/prweb2012/9/prweb9951898.htm

Pending home sales fall

Fewer buyers signed contracts to buy homes in August compared to July, according to the latest pending home sales report by the National Association of Realtors.

NAR’s Pending Home Sales index declined 2.6 percent to 99.2 in August, but it is 10.7 percent above August 2011. The decline comes after contract activity had reached its highest levels since April 2010, when buyers rushed to beat the deadline for homebuyer tax credit.

Could the latest numbers be a sign that the recovering housing market is softening again?

NAR’s chief economist Lawrence Yun says he is “not concerned at all.”

He says volatility in monthly data is normal.

“If one looks at the buyers’ interest, that remains very strong in our Realtor’s survey,” he says in a video interview posted on the Realtors’ website.

Yun says the areas with declining contract signings actually are areas he characterizes as “hot markets.” Those areas include Phoenix, Las Vegas and South Florida. He claims there is a shortage of homes for sale in some parts of the country.

Home prices will continue to rise through the rest of the year and in 2013, he says. He expects prices to rise 5 percent in 2012 and in 2013.

“We could easily have 10 percent, 12 percent appreciation this time next year,” he says.

Do you think Yun is being too optimistic? Are you feeling the housing recovery yet?

Follow me on Twitter @Polyanad.

Add curb appeal to your home with new exterior trim

(ARA) – When it comes to selling your home, curb appeal means everything. And nothing makes a worse initial impression than exterior trim that is peeling, cracked, rotted or falling apart. Replacing old or damaged exterior trim is a great way to freshen up your home today and make it stand out among others tomorrow.

According to the National Association of Realtors, curb appeal sells 49 percent of all homes. Potential buyers start evaluating a house as soon as they pull up. That’s why it’s important to make your house look great from the street, long before putting it on the market.

“You only get one chance to make a first impression. Exterior trim that is cracked, rotted or peeling can turn away buyers,” says Peggie Bolan, vice president for Chicago-based CMI, a building products manufacturer. “Homes with beautiful exterior trim have that wow factor that attracts buyers. Making a good first impression can be the difference between getting a signed contract and keeping the ‘For Sale’ sign in the yard.”

Inspect your trim

Fall is an ideal time to inspect your home’s exterior trim. Walk around your house and look at the trim around your windows and doors, at the corners, and near the roofline. Warning signs of potential problems include peeling or blistering paint, mold and mildew, warped boards, and spongy or soft spots. Check for termite damage too; they cause more damage to U.S. homes than fire, floods and storms combined.

If the trim is damaged beyond repair, the only solution is replacement. Depending on your carpentry skills, replacing exterior trim can be a do-it-yourself project, but it is often best to hire a local contractor or remodeler. One product option that has become a preferred choice among homebuilders and remodelers is a treated exterior composite trim called MiraTEC. This engineered wood trim is ideal for nonstructural applications, such as roofline fascia, window and door trim, corner posts and porch trim.

Find the right trim

Although traditional wood trim often looks good when installed, it can split and swell, and is prone to knots and defects. Other materials, like PVC and fiber cement trim, may be difficult to install and also have performance limitations.

With a clear cedar, wood-grain texture on one side and a contemporary smooth finish on the other, MiraTEC trim is ideal for many home styles from historic to modern. It is made from eco-friendly materials, looks and handles like wood, and is coated with a mildew-resistant primer, making it easy to paint. MiraTEC is very durable and it resists moisture, rot and termites.

Don’t put your house on the market until you’ve taken a good look at your exterior trim. If you don’t like the way it looks, neither will a buyer. To learn more, visit www.miratectrim.com.

Home Sales Contracts Slip; Mortgage Rates Fall

A home for sale and under contract is seen in Rockville, Md. The National Association of Realtors said its index of sales agreements dropped 2.6 percent last month.
Enlarge Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

A home for sale and “under contract” is seen in Rockville, Md. The National Association of Realtors said its index of sales agreements dropped 2.6 percent last month.

A home for sale and under contract is seen in Rockville, Md. The National Association of Realtors said its index of sales agreements dropped 2.6 percent last month.

Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

A home for sale and “under contract” is seen in Rockville, Md. The National Association of Realtors said its index of sales agreements dropped 2.6 percent last month.

The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy previously occupied homes fell in August from a two-year high in July. Meanwhile, 30-year mortgage rates continued falling, hitting a record low of 3.40 percent this week.

The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that its index of sales agreements dropped 2.6 percent last month to 99.2. In July, the index rose to 101.9. That was the highest level since April 2010, when the market benefited from a federal home-buying tax credit.

A reading of 100 is considered healthy. The index is 10.7 percent higher than it was a year ago. The index bottomed at 75.88 in June 2010 after the tax credit expired.

Contract signings typically indicate where the housing market is headed. There’s generally a one- to two-month lag between a signed contract and a completed deal. Last month, completed sales hit a two-year high.

Most recent data points to steady improvement in the housing market. Home prices rose nationwide in July compared to a year ago, according to the Standard Poor’s/Case-Shiller index. That was the second straight year-over-year gain.

And sales of new homes remained near a two-year high in August, the government said Wednesday.

Builder confidence is at a six-year high and construction of single-family homes rose last month to the fastest annual rate in more than two years.

Sales have been boosted by ultra-low mortgage rates. The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage fell to a new record low this week of 3.40 percent, down from last week’s rate of 3.49 percent, Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday. The decline suggests the Federal Reserve’s stimulus efforts may be having an impact on mortgage rates.

A limited supply of homes for sale has also helped drive prices up. Higher prices could boost more sellers to list their homes.

Even with the gains, home sales and construction remain well below healthy levels. And many homebuyers, particularly first-time buyers, aren’t able to qualify for mortgage loans.

The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage, a popular refinancing option, fell to 2.73 percent this week, down from the record low of 2.77 percent last week.

The Fed is spending $40 billion a month to buy mortgage-backed securities. The goal is to lower mortgage rates and help the housing recovery. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke says the program will continue until there is substantial improvement in the job market.

Some economists expect mortgage rates to fall even further because of the Fed’s bond purchases.