The housing recovery seems to be picking up steam. Still, with the stop-and-go nature of the recovery, doubters may need concrete proof that we're turning a corner. Here are a few items that caught my eye recently that point to a more consistent climb toward a more healthy housing market.
Fannie and Freddie have been able to hold on to some money this year
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, those quasi-public mortgage entities that nearly went under along with most of Wall Street during the financial meltdown, are finally in the black. Well, not completely -- they both still owe a combined $144 billion in bailout money to taxpayers -- but they have stopped hemorrhaging cash, and have even tucked some away. Fannie reported $5.1 billion in net income for the second quarter, $2.4 billion more than the first quarter and a huge improvement over its $2.9 billion loss one year ago.
Freddie's situation improved as well, as it declared $3 billion in income versus only $577 million last quarter, and a loss of $2.1 billion in the second quarter of 2011. This happy news is due directly to lower default rates and rising home prices: House prices have clocked a 4.8% increase from Q1 to Q2, the best quarterly performance in six years and annual gain in eight years.
Housing exchange-traded funds are moving up
ETFs such as the SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF and the Dow Jones U.S. Home Construction ETF
Railcars are being dusted off to ship building materials
Bloomberg reports that Union Pacific
If all of this isn't enough to convince you, consider that even manufactured housing is going great guns. Clayton Homes, a subsidiary of housing bull Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway
Not only does it look like a sustained housing rally is finally taking place, but there are more ways than ever to play the recovery. To find out more about one bank that's dominating the market today, check out The Motley Fool's special free report: "The Only Big Bank Built to Last."