NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
The sharp rise in home prices will continue in 2006, according to an upcoming forecast by Douglas Duncan, chief economist for the Mortgage Bankers Association, the leading trade organization of the real estate lending industry.
"We're forecasting that 2006 will be a trend growth year for the economy with an increase of about 3.5 percent in the GDP," said Duncan. That will help keep what he calls the "Don Ho real estate market" ("Tiny Bubbles") percolating.
His one caveat is that the country has never experienced a housing market quite like this one. In the past, real estate prices have been closely tied to economic conditions, both national and local. But in recent years housing prices in many markets have far outgained other economic metrics.
Duncan predicts home ownership will further expand the next two years. He says the number of homes sold will set a record in 2005 for the fifth consecutive year. Helping drive this trend is the baby-boom generation, only 70 percent of whom currently owns homes.
"Typically, home-ownership peaks at about age 60," he says, " when 80 percent of Americans own their own homes." That means boomers should do a lot of homebuying in the near future.
Adding to that factor will be very modest upward movement in long-term interest rates over the next two years, he predicts, keeping monthly housing costs affordable for many. "That means another great year for housing in 2006," he says.
On the refinancing front, Duncan says most homeowners who wanted to refinance to lower their monthly payments have already done so.
Still, many homeowners may refinance – depending on rates trends – in order to take cash out. But Americans, he says, have become extremely rate sensitive.
"People react to small changes in rates," he says. Spikes in the number of Americans refinancing "may turn on 40 basis points or less."
For more about refinancing trends, click here.
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