The National Association of Realtors, in its latest economic forecast, anticipates that the nation’s unemployment rate will hit 10.2 percent next year. The group also boosted its expectations for resale home prices and sales in 2010 from an earlier forecast.

In 2009, NAR expects the median price of resale homes to drop 4.9 percent compared to 2008, dipping to $188,500, before climbing 4.4 percent to $196,800 next year.

NAR’s latest forecast also calls for 4.97 million resale home sales this year, a 1.1 percent rise compared to 4.91 million last year, with sales of resale homes projected to rise 6.3 percent in 2010.

In its previous forecast, released last month (see Inman News), NAR estimated that the median price of resale homes would drop 5.1 percent this year and rise 4.1 percent in 2010, and that sales of resale homes would rise 1 percent this year and climb another 5.8 percent in 2010.

NAR’s affordability index, which measures how affordable homes are for households based on mortgage rates and income levels, decreased in March but remained near its record-high February level — the index was up 30.8 percentage points from its March 2008 level.

Also Monday, the association released the Pending Home Sales Index, which is based on home-purchase contracts signed but not yet closed.

The index, for the month of March, gained 3.2 percent compared to February and was up 1.1 percent over the March 2008 index.

Regionally, the index experienced a monthly rise in the South (8.5 percent) and West (3.9 percent) regions while dropping in the Northeast (-5.7 percent) and Midwest (-1 percent). And the index rose in the Midwest (8.2 percent), South (7.7 percent) and West (1.7 percent) while plummeting in the Northeast (-24.1 percent) region in March 2009 compared to March 2008.

***

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