Editor’s note: Scott McElmurry, author of this opinion-editorial, is President and C.E.O. of Bank of Little Rock Mortgage.

It’s safe to say that members of the real estate business will look back at 2012 as one of the best years when it comes to low mortgage rates.  For many in the industry, the prediction for 2013 is that rates will remain at historic lows (good for buyers) and that home prices will continue to recover (good for sellers).  And a strong housing market often translates into a strong economy.

With all due respect to the fiscal cliff discussions going on in the nation’s capital (with a couple of caveats), I feel optimistic about 2013 and what it can mean to the average person looking to buy a first home, refinance his or her current home or downsize into a smaller retirement home.

In its “U.S. Economic and Housing Market Outlook,” Freddie Mac highlighted the following predictions for 2013.

  • Look for long-term mortgage rates to remain near their record lows for the first half of 2013, then rising gradually during the second half of the year, but remaining below 4 percent.
  • Expect property values to continue to strengthen with most U.S. house price indexes likely rising by 2 to 3 percent in 2013.
  • While the refinance boom will continue into early 2013, it will be less compared to 2012 so look for single-family mortgage originations to decline by 15 percent, conversely, expect multifamily lending to rise approximately 5 percent.

So what does this mean to the Arkansas housing market?

Unlike states such as Arizona, California, Nevada or Florida, we weren’t severely crushed by the housing market crash. Sure, we felt some of the effects and there were many people who struggled to sell homes at their optimal asking price. But our market doesn’t have as far to climb to get out of the housing market dip.

Another factor is better employment figures.  Employed people are home-buying people.  And as we see unemployment go down we will likely see mortgage generations go up.  This is where the caveats on the fiscal cliff come in.  If a deal is not reached, or if the deal reached still leads to economic downturn and/or a cut to the U.S. credit rating, all bets are off.

Here’s hoping they get it right in Washington.

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