For several months, housing data has continued to improve which, in most cases, would signal the end of the housing crisis. Whether this is true and a fact, is really only speculation since other areas of the economy are not producing the same results. However, as the housing market marches forward with more positive data, consumer attitudes are improving as hope for a better tomorrow increases.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, sales of new single family homes rose 5.7% in September which represents a two year high and a 27.1% increase from September 2011. August numbers were revised to reflect a decrease from 373,000 units to 368,000. Pending Home Sales, which represents sales agreements, increased in September to 99.5 which is up from 99.2 in August, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). However, September is still below a high of 101.9 reaching in July, but is up 14.5% from a year ago. On the down side, it is still below a reading of over 100 which is considered healthy. Based on values in 20 cities, property values increased 2% in August from the previous year, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Index. This represents the largest increase in values in two years and the biggest year to year gain since July of 2010.

In other data, the Commerce Department reported that the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 2% for the third quarter 2012, up from 1.3% for the second quarter. This rise was the 13th straight month of increases and was attributed to consumer, housing and government spending. The final Consumer Sentiment Index for October by the University of Michigan showed an increase to 82.6 from September's 78.3 and is the highest since September of 2007.

Since housing plays an important role in the life of consumers, it appears that confidence in the industry has improved. Government mortgage programs have indeed helped many consumers see increased cash flow in their daily lives. HARP 2.0, which is for those who have loans that were sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac prior to June 1, 2009, has and continues to allow borrowers to refinance underwater mortgages to the current low mortgage rates available. Without this program, millions of homeowners would not be able to refinance since they owe more than their property is worth. Even those with over 125% are able to refinance and have been the faster growing group. For FHA mortgage holders, the FHA streamline refinance has been around for a long time although was not used very often because of mortgage insurance premiums. This FHA refinance does not require an appraisal or any other documentation which makes it perfect for underwater borrowers or those that have experienced a reduction in income or issues with credit. The reduction of upfront and annual mortgage insurance premiums for FHA borrowers who have loans that were endorsed prior to June 1, 2009 brought on a surge of refinances with this program. While there is no cash out allowed, refinancing with the FHA streamline to lower mortgage rates has also put much needed cash into the pockets of consumers. These programs can also help borrowers gain back equity faster which then will allow them to sell their property without taking a loss or putting out cash. Although both of these programs are popular and will continue to be available throughout 2013, traditional mortgage refinances are still being used over and over again by borrowers who qualify, with some refinancing more than once as mortgage rates reach new and lower levels.

Anything that puts cash back into the hands of consumers will help the economy grow as that available cash is spent in other areas. Although the progress may appear to be slow, it is better than it was several years ago. Improvements in the housing market can also help those looking for employment as more jobs become available in this sector. There is no magic wand to bring about a rapid economic recovery, but the small advances are baby steps in the right direction.

FreeRateUpdate.com surveys more than two dozen wholesale and direct lenders' rate sheets to determine the most accurate mortgage rates available to well qualified consumers at about a 1 point origination fee.

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