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Housing Forecasts Too Cloudy...Even To Forecast

CNBC.com

I've spent much of my week at conferences. First at the Mortgage Bankers Association and today at the National Association of Home Builders Construction Forecast Conference.

I'm struck with the similarities: one is that attendance appears to be pretty low at both. This could be due to the fact that the mortgage bankers have lost more than 15 percent of their membership in the last year, and while I don't know the exact numbers I'm guessing the builders have lost a few as well.

The second similarity that strikes me is the positively bewildered expressions on the faces of the chief economists of both associations. These poor guys are tasked with telling everyone when its all going to get better, and the fact of the matter is they just don't know. Don't get me wrong, these are supersmart guys, number crunchers with decades in the business, but as NAHBs David Seiders said, the risk in housing right now is just so high that it makes forecasting extremely difficult.

The chief economist at Fannie Mae, Doug Duncan, spoke to the builders conference today and reminded folks here that forecasts are based on trends in history i.e., how did similar circumstances result in the past? But, as he astutely points out, there is no historical data, no past trend, no previous parameters by which to judge today's scenario. Never before were there so many borrowers who put down no equity, so many who declined to state income, so many with negative amortization loans.

In other words, and again with my utmost respect for the economists, before any one of you out there try to gauge, bet on or hedge the housing market, understand that not one thing any expert or cab driver predicts about housing today is a safe assumption as to what housing is truly going to look like a year from today.

Questions? Comments? RealtyCheck@cnbc.com

  • Diana Olick serves as CNBC's real estate correspondent as well as the editor of the Realty Check section on CNBC.com.

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