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‘Optimism’ In Housing?
CNBC.com | April 25, 2011 | 12:06 PM EDT

Thanks to all the streaming feeds of constant news I'm subjected to, I just clicked on a CNBC story titled, Four Years Later, Housing Market Shows Signs of Life."I was curious, seeing as I write about housing for CNBC, and I didn't write that. It's a Reuters piece, and I don't buy it.

But wait, what about this morning's report of an 11 percent jump in salesof newly built homes and last week's report of a 4 percent jump in sales of existing homes; March was a great month, right? A little perspective, please.

Yes, the numbers are going in the right direction, but only after big, albeit partially revised, drops in February. We're working off a bottom here, and we're still bumping around it. My concern, as it has been for years now, is distressed properties. Foreclosures and short sales (where the home is sold for less than the value of the mortgage) are ruling the roost, and that is not good news for home prices, which are still dropping, despite this one month of rising sales. Sales are all well and good, but prices are key in so so many ways.

For existing homes in March, the bulk of the market, 35 percent of all transactions were all-cash (that's a new record), and 22 percent were sales to investors; investors don't necessarily want to hold on to these properties for very long, so they may come back on the market again soon.

But back to the distressed properties.

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