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Gauging where housing market is headed

Diverse opinions on real estate future are common

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David Lereah, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, recently said that the home sale market has started to stabilize and could even turn around by spring 2007. Other economists are less optimistic. Ken Rosen, a noted real estate forecaster, predicts that it will take about three years for the San Francisco Bay Area housing market to turn around. Leslie Appleton Young, chief economist for the California Association of Realtors, thinks it will take 18 months for the California market to recover. But, in a recent survey conducted by WSJ.com, the Wall Street Journal's Web site, economists by a margin of 2 to 1 predicted that the worst was over for the housing market. The opinions about the direction of home prices are equally diverse. Rosen sees home prices dropping by about 8 percent in the San Francisco Bay Area and 11 percent in Miami over the next few years. NAR predicts increases in home prices next year. Some think we've already hit bottom; others think we haven...