Looking at the nation’s housing and economic indicators, there is plenty of positive news to justify continued investor optimism in 2015.

THE GENERAL MARKET

The housing recovery has progressed in fits and starts this year, with historically low mortgage rates and the strongest job gains since 1999 slowly luring buyers into the market. The average 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage was 3.93 percent in the week ended Dec. 11, down from 4.53 percent at the start of January, according to data from Freddie Mac in McLean, Virginia.

At the 2014 Realtors Conference & Expo, Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, or NAR, predicted a rebound for existing home sales for the next two years, and he projects the national median existing-home price will rise at a moderate 4 percent in each of those years.

On the new home front, David Crowe, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders, forecasted in an Oct. 31, 2014 National Association of Home Builders webinar that multi-family housing starts were projected to increase 15 percent in the rest of 2014 and hold steady in 2015.

Two major concerns remain: tight lending standards, which continue to keep people who could otherwise afford to buy a home from qualifying for a loan to finance the purchase, and interest rates, which are expected to hit at least 5 percent by year-end. However, as the run-up in home prices decelerates and lending standards become less strict, homeownership may become more attainable for many Americans. Starting Dec. 13, Fannie Mae is allowing lower down payments for first-time buyers and permitting borrowers who are refinancing to reduce equity to 3 percent to cover closing costs.

THE LUXURY MARKET

U.S. millionaires see real estate as the top alternative-asset class to own this year, according to Morgan Stanley.

About 77 percent of investors with at least $1 million in assets own real estate, according to a survey released today by the New York-based investment bank’s wealth-management unit. “After a year where the Standard & Poor’s Index rose 30 percent, some millionaires are moving money out of traditional, long-only strategies to find outperformance, and turning toward alternatives such as real estate and private equity,” said Gary Kaminsky, a vice chairman at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management in New York. “Sophisticated, high-net-worth investors are much more concerned about losses.”

Wealthy foreigners have bought high-end U.S. properties for their safety and because they’re denominated in dollars, the world’s reserve currency, he said. This helps domestic millionaires maintain the value of their property investments. This is creating competition, which drives U.S. real estate prices up. U.S. sellers have multiple channels to sell into which gives them more liquidity.

THE FORECLOSURE AND REO MARKET

The number of U.S. properties in the process of being foreclosed upon dropped last year to its lowest level since 2006, real estate data firm RealtyTrac said on January 15th, 2015. In total, 1,117,426 properties were at some stage of foreclosure proceedings in 2014, down 18 percent from 2013 and off 61 percent from the peak of the aftermath of the housing collapse in 2010, when 2,871,891 properties had foreclosure filings under way. The data for the year overall showed the foreclosure market is “close to finding a floor and stabilizing at a historically normal level,” Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac, said in a statement.

THE REAL ESTATE MARKET IN WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA

When compared to 2013, the real estate market is up in almost all counties of Western North Carolina. In 2014, the counties of Western North Carolina posted a total sales volume of $2,011,717,532, selling 9,286 properties, up % over 2013.

PINNACLE SOTHEBY’S INTERNATIONAL REALTY

2014 was an extraordinary year for us. Here are some of our highlights: • Over $12,000,000 in total sales • Top office in Lake Lure • Highest sale in Henderson County • Third highest sale in Rutherford County • Second highest sale in Lake Lure • Ranked 13th in the Hendersonville Board of Realtors • Highest average transaction in Lake Lure We look forward to a prosperous 2015!

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