Time To Buy: What The Experts Say

Whether it’s your primary residence or a vacation home, with the housing market slump close to a year old and spring on the calendar, the burning question for many is whether it’s time to buy.

Home Builder's View

Hovnanian Enterprises has had to lower its expectations like any other home buillder and Ara Hovnanian, the company's president & CEO is trying hard to manage market expectations.

I would not say we are starting to see improvement, " Hovnanian told "Street Signs". The subprime market mess had made people "jittery", he explains, and is having a negative pyschological effect.

Hovnanian, the nation's six largest home builder, serves buyers from entry level to the luxury one, so it has had a taste of the subprime market. Last year, the subprime group represented 18% of its business. In the first quarter of 2007 it was down to 14%, given a tightening of qualifications.

Hovnanian operates in 427 communities in 19 states, so it has a national feel for the business.

"The market is still sluggish, at best," the company's CEO declares without hesitation.

Pro And Con

For those of you thinking doom and gloom, then listen to Nouriel Roubini. The professor at NYU's Stern School of Business and Chairman of Roubini Global Economics told "Squawk On The Street" that it is "a lousy time to buy" because he expects home prices to fall another 20% in the next two years.

What's more, the subprime lending mess as well as the growing rate of mortgage delinquencies and home foreclosures suggests "the beginning of a major credit crunch." Roubini says housing starts usually fall around 50% during the worst real estate slumps and starts are already down 30% from the high of his boom.

Christopher Mayer, professor at the Columbia Business School, couldn't disagree more, saying no industry indicators are "near the conditions of the late 1980s." Mayer notes that housing starts fell below an annualized rate of 1 million a year during that real estate bust, thus there is "no great depression in housing."

Mayer points to a relatively strong job market and attractive interest rates. "Interest rates are still incredibly low," he says, adding that they are the most important fundamental for the market.

High End Holds Ups

"The market is just believable," says Dolly Lenz of Prudential Douglas Elliman. "These high-end properties have a life of their own, " adds Pamela Liebman of The Corcoran Group. Housing slump. What housing slump?

In New York and its fashionable weekend retreat areas, high-end properties are snapped up quickly -- often by so-called "hedge fund buyers" -- and prices continue to climb.

Lenz and Liebman showed CNBC's Sue Herera four such properties now on the market.

"I don't see any let up soon," says Liebman.