Pictured left to right are past C.A.R. President Jim Hamilton, SILVAR President-elect Suzanne Yost, Los Gatos/Saratoga District Chair Doug Evans, C.A.R. Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young, SILVAR President Gene Lentz, and Los Gatos/Saratoga District Co-chair Chris Rasmussen.

California Association of REALTORS® Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young told SILVAR members at last Wednesday’s Los Gatos/Saratoga District tour meeting that while the worst is over, the market continues to struggle with not much relief in sight.

“The tide has turned for housing, but now it’s stuck,” said Appleton-Young.

C.A.R.’s chief economist explained that the economy started to gain a bit of traction and seemed to be moving forward at the beginning of this year, but things happened one after another – Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, oil price spikes, uprisings in the Middle East, stock market volatility, the U.S. debt and the debt crisis in the euro zone. As a result, the housing market that appeared to be recovering is now stalled.

Lenders aren’t lending and consumer and entrepreneurial confidence continue to be low. As long as the jobs problem continues, she doesn’t expect consumer spending to improve by much. Mortgage rates have experienced a historical drop, “but you can’t push on a string. You can’t make people borrow; you can’t make lenders lend,” she said.

The good news is Santa Clara County is doing better than most parts of the state with just a 9.6 unemployment rate. In Santa Clara County, 35 percent of homes that closed escrow in September were distressed, but this is a far cry from places like Solano County, where in September 73 percent of homes that closed escrow in September were distressed sales.

The Bay Area has the best economy in California, in terms of income and job growth. “Companies in this valley are in the cutting edge, leading growth in the economy,” said Appleton-Young.

September single-family home sales were at 487,940 units. Absent more wild cards that could upset the economy, C.A.R. expects 491,000 unit sales by year-end and 496,000 unit sales in 2012, just a 1 percent increase from this year. California’s median price was $287,440 in September, down 8.3 percent from September 2010, but way above from when it bottomed in February 2009 at $245,230. C.A.R. expects the median price to hit $291,000 by the end of 2011 and to increase 1.7 percent to $296,000 in 2012.

Troubles are ahead because all levels of government will have to wrestle with issues of pensions and cost of health and other benefits for public employees. Appleton-Young said ultimately, everyone will have to answer for the deficit.

“It’s hard to do when in some places, the coffers are empty. You can’t spend more than you take in, even if you are the U.S. government. Everyone is going to have to give up something in the end,” she said.

Appleton-Young said in 2012, REALTORS® will need to watch the following federal issues closely – the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, changes in the tax treatment of real estate, including the definition of the QRM (Qualified Residential Mortgage), which could mean purchasing a home will be even more difficult and costly for consumers.

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