>> Market Update

QUOTE OF THE WEEK... "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." --Elmer G. Leterman, American insurance broker and author

... Last week's December New Home Sales report showed there's plenty of opportunity in today's housing market. We saw new single-family home sales shoot up 11.6%, to an encouraging 481,000 annual rate, their highest level since June 2008, while sales were up 8.8% for the year. December's faster selling pace dropped the months' supply of new homes to 5.5 months, even as inventories increased by 5,000 units. But inventories remain low, so home builders have plenty of room to ramp up construction. The incentive should be there, with the median price of new homes sold up 8.2% from a year ago.

The Pending Home Sales index was down 3.7% for December, but this National Association of Realtors (NAR) measure of contracts signed on existing homes is 6.1% up for the year. That's the fourth month in a row it's above year-over-year levels. The NAR chief economist added: "More jobs, increasing consumer confidence, less expensive mortgage insurance and new low down payment programs...will likely lead to more demand from first-time buyers." The November Case-Shiller Home Price Index was up 4.7% from a year ago, a solid gain, though smaller than the year before. Experts see more of the same in 2015, prices advancing at a slightly slower pace.