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For Housing to Recover, It Comes Down to Confidence

Thursday, 23 Dec 2010 | 3:34 PM ET

Despite the fact that sales of newly constructed home bumped up 5.5 percent in November, month to month, one analyst was prompted to call it, "Another Miserable Report."

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Patrick Newport over at IHS Global Insight noted that while the seasonal adjustments pushed the numbers up, in reality November's actual sales volume was the lowest ever recorded.

Even the National Association of Home Builderscouldn't muster much enthusiasm. "The gain represents a partial bounce-back from a near-record low, downwardly revised number of new-home sales in October," went their release.

"While builders continue to face a great deal of competition from short-sale and foreclosure properties, the improvement registered in new-home sales in November is a good sign," said Bob Jones, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders.

Still, the builders are concerned about lack of credit to build new homes. They claim that when demand surges, they will not have product to offer. This even as the Commerce Department reported an 8.2 month supply of newly constructed homes at the current sales pace, but the current sales pace is pretty awful.

"As we came to the end of 2010, I was asked to do all kinds of prediction pieces, which I dutifully did. Neither I, nor anyone who studies housing, can make any promises in this market. There is simply no historical context with which to judge."

"Inventory management continues to improve. The number of new homes for sale fell to the lowest level since 1968.," notes Newport. "And though the turnover rate—the median time it takes to sell a new home—inched up 0.1 month, to 8.2 months, this is a vast improvement over March 2010, when the turnover rate hit an all-time high of 14.4 months."

As we came to the end of 2010, I was asked to do all kinds of prediction pieces, which I dutifully did. We picked some stocks, looked at sectors and geographic regions, and noted the headwinds.

Neither I, nor anyone who studies housing, can make any promises in this market. There is simply no historical context with which to judge.

I continue to believe that while we can argue 'til we're blue about credit, government incentives, fraud and blame, the fate of the housing market lies in confidence. The minute Americans see a real reason for hope, a lift from the bottom—and a potential for profit— housing will come roaring back.

Questions? Comments? RealtyCheck@cnbc.comAnd follow me on Twitter @Diana_Olick

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  • 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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