Upturn in housing market creates mood of optimism; But concern exists, too, over large federal deficits
Chicago — Bolstered by a significant upturn in housing starts and a record inventory of available homes, the housing industry is urging buyers to act now, despite the slight uptick in interest rates.
The upturn in the market has generated a renewed spirit of optimism among buyers and brokers alike, ''although buyers and sellers expect (the brokers) to know more than ever about the market and ways to finance house purchases,'' according to Harley W. Snyder, president of the 600,000-member National Association of Realtors (NAR).
Despite his optimism, Mr. Snyder expresses rising concern about the federal government's role in the housing picture.
''There are too many government controls at all levels that have a negative effect on property values,'' he charges, from restrictive zoning laws ''that boost home prices'' and bar some income groups from buying in a neighborhood, to restrictive building codes ''that regulate the height of bedroom window sills.''
Mr. Snyder decries the $200 billion federal deficit and notes his concern that ''the gradually improving economy will tend to split available money among all the major consumer sections,'' thus encouraging another round of interest rate increases.
(Interest rates already are rising slightly; last week the Federal Housing Administration-Veterans' Administration rate was boosted from 111/2 percent to 12 percent.)
If the projected annual housing inflation rate reaches 7 to 8 percent by the end of 1983, as some economists predict, a family earning the median national income of $23,917 would have only 78.9 percent of the income required to buy a median-priced home costing $68,300, Mr. Snyder says.
''While this must improve, compare this with last May's 1982 affordability-index figure of 64.2 percent,'' he says.
Among other points, Mr. Snyder adds that:
* Houses are selling better in the Sunbelt states, where there is a greater proportion of technical, less-labor-intensive industries than in other states with big cities and industries affected by layoffs.
* The number of singles buying houses will grow and thus help to increase housing demand.
* In today's market, the real estate investor should also be optimistic about the opportunities in real estate, the NAR chief says, ''but he has to decide first whether he is primarily interested in a tax shelter, in income, or in capital growth.''
* Vacation time-sharing properties that are popular in Europe, where the idea originated, should be approached in the United States with one major question that requires a positive answer:
''Stable, effective management of the units into which you will buy is the key to how sound an investment you are making and to the unit's future resale value,'' Mr. Snyder says.
''Ask if the property has a resale history - and if so, if units resell promptly.''
During the last few years of depressed house sales, high interest rates, and financing requirements that discouraged buyers, the real estate business faced its deepest recession since the 1930s.
But last August, Mr. Snyder concludes, ''interest rates began to drop (followed by) a gradual, modest improvement in residential sales,'' so that by December the Federal Housing Administration was processing mortgage applications at an annual rate of 1.5 million.