But numerous signs suggest that the housing market is picking up. Builder confidence rose in December for a seventh straight month to the highest level in more than 6½ years, according to a survey released Tuesday by the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo.
The index of builder sentiment rose two points to 47, the highest since 2006. Builders are more optimistic, in particular, about current sales and buyer traffic, the survey found.
Readings below 50 still signal negative sentiment about the housing market. But the index has been rising since October 2011, when it was 17.
More people are looking for a new house or apartment, encouraged by modest job gains, a gradually improving economy and mortgage rates near record-low levels. At the same time, fewer homes are available for sale. The low supply is helping lift prices.
Sales of previously occupied homes rose 2.1 percent in October. New-home sales fell slightly that month, slowed by steep declines in the Northeast from Superstorm Sandy. But they were still 17 percent higher that month than in the same month a year ago.
Sandy struck the East Coast on Oct. 29, disrupting businesses and cutting off power to 8 million homes in 10 states.
Though new homes represent less than 20 percent of the housing sales market, they have an outsize impact on the economy. Each home built creates an average of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in tax revenue, according to data from the homebuilders association.
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