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Federal Reserve Beige Book on Real Estate

Federal Reserve District MapThe Portland real estate market is a part of the Federal Reserve’s 12th District.  The Federal Reserve “Beige Book” on the current state of the economy was released on January 13th (it’s 59 pages).  There is a national summary and comentary for each district for various segments of the economy.

On the national real estate market:

Homes sales increased toward the end of 2009 in most Federal Reserve Districts, except San Francisco, where demand for housing has been steady, and Kansas City, where residential real estate activity has eased since the last Beige Book. In New York, Richmond, and Atlanta, residential real estate activity was described as mixed across areas of the District. In the Atlanta District, existing home sales increased, but new home sales decreased. In all Districts, sales of lower-priced homes tended to increase proportionately more than sales of higher-priced homes, due at least in part to the first-time buyer federal tax credit, according to real estate contacts. In several Districts real estate contacts reported that the original expiration date for the credit boosted sales in November and led to a more than usual slowdown in sales in December. However, some contacts noted that the extension of the credit into 2010 could give an added impetus to the expected seasonal sales upturn this spring. Residential construction activity remained at low levels in most Districts, although home building was reported to have increased in the Chicago and Minneapolis Districts. Home prices appeared to have changed little since the last Beige Book, overall. Boston, Philadelphia, and Cleveland reported declines in home prices since the last Beige Book. Richmond reported nearly steady prices. Dallas reported some firming in prices.

Regarding San Francisco District 12 (including Portland):

Demand for housing appeared to be largely stable, while demand for commercial real estate eroded further. After accounting for normal seasonal variation, the pace of home sales was mixed across areas but appeared little changed on net compared with the previous reporting period; contacts noted that low mortgage interest rates helped to sustain sales in general. However, an extensive supply of foreclosed properties in some areas caused inventories to remain somewhat elevated, which in turn has restrained the pace of new home construction. Demand weakened further for commercial real estate, with vacancy rates for office and industrial space rising further in many parts of the District. However, one contact in the Pacific Northwest noted that the market may be approaching a bottom, citing an increase in leasing activity in response to favorable terms for tenants.

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