* Freddie Mac's Nothaft sees bottom in spring
* Sees gradual rise in 2012
* Sees uneven recovery around U.S.
By Barbara Liston
ORLANDO, Fla., Jan 12 U.S. housing prices
overall are likely to bottom by spring 2011 and begin a gradual
rise in 2012, housing lender Freddie Mac's FMCC.OB chief
economist Frank Nothaft said on Wednesday.
"I do think we'll see these housing prices bottom out,
maybe by the spring," Nothaft said.
Nothaft presented Freddie Mac's January 2011 Economic
Outlook to reporters at the annual International Builders' Show
Nothaft predicted that potential home buyers who have been
sitting on the sidelines will start to get back into the
He said this prediction is bolstered by historically low
mortgage interest rates and other positive economic indicators,
a small drop in the rate of unemployment, increases in
purchases of durable goods and a slight slowing of serious
delinquencies feeding the glut of foreclosed housing stock.
"This is the time to come in the market if you've got the
financial resources and wherewithal," Nothaft said.
However, the housing market will continue to recover
unevenly around the country with regions of Florida, Nevada and
California continuing to slog through the effects of the
economic bust, he said.
Homebuilders and suppliers at the home builder event, where
attendance is off nearly 50 percent since the show was staged
in Orlando in 2005 through 2008, viewed the forecast through
the lenses of their home communities' experience of the
"I've been in a crash for four years," millwork supplier
Jeff Thompson of Vero Beach, Florida, told Reuters. "But I'm
almost seeing a glimmer of light in getting new projects."
"We've pretty much already bottomed out," said Jeffrey
Capogrossi, a custom homebuilder from Columbia, South Carolina,
said. "Now, how long we're going to stay flat is hard to
Custom home builder Robert Leslie said his company in
Fargo, North Dakota, never stopped growing through the national
"Our markets, if anything, just leveled off for a while. So
now, they're starting to move up," he said.
Freddie Mac and the National Association of Home Builders
are projecting a 20 to 21 percent increase in new housing
starts -- from 475,000 in 2010 to 575,000 in 2011, according to
Nothaft and David Crowe, the NAHB's chief economist.
"Twenty percent may sound like a really big increase, but
keep in mind, it comes off a very low base," Nothaft said.
With the national inventory of new homes at a 40-year low,
Crowe said, an estimated 2 million people who would have moved
into their own homes stayed put through the recession, many of
them young adults who remained in their parents' homes or
continued to share living quarters with roommates.
"We have an enormous pent-up demand for households," the
National Association of Home Builders chief economist said.
(Editing by Greg McCune, Gary Hill)