Mortgage rates remain near historically low levels

Although rates have held at low levels this year, they have dropped further since the Federal Reserve announced in September that it would buy upward of $40 billion of mortgage-backed securities each month until the labor market shows significant improvement. 

Housing experts agree that the sector is gradually improving — prices are rising in most areas, consumer confidence is improving, builder confidence hit a six-year high this week and housing construction is moving along at its fastest pace in four years — and they expect an acceleration over the next few years, although a full recovery is still likely several years away. 

"We're seeing a more robust housing sector than many other parts of the economy," David Crowe, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders said during a webinar on Wednesday. "One of the reasons is we have finally begun to see on a national scale that house prices are picking up again."

Still there are hurdles to more robust growth, including congressional action on spending and tax issues, builders who are unable to obtain the necessary credit to start building, qualified buyers can't get home loans, inaccurate appraisals, seriously delinquent mortgages that are at least 90 days late or in foreclosure and a limited inventory of developed lots in certain markets, Crowe said.