Housing Market Improves, but Growth Years Away

Prices are stabilizing, but not going up.

By + More

[See 4 Ways to Trim Your Housing Costs Now.]

But Humphries, who characterized his view toward the housing market as "cautiously optimistic," warned that even if the housing market does bottom out in 2012, prices are likely to stay relatively flat for two to four years to come.

"Once we hit bottom it will be a long rocky affair, lasting two to four years," he says. "Price appreciation will be fairly tepid. I don't expect to get back to a normal market for a few years. We're approaching a bottom but the bottom could last a long time."

Min at the Center for American Progress also warns that the dramatic price appreciation that occurred before the bubble burst is not coming back.

"The housing finance system is in a generational change. You'll never go back to the double-digit annual appreciations," he says. "But it's not unthinkable that we can go back to the 80s and 90s when housing was a good, solid investment. We can return to that, and that's the goal of a lot of the policymakers."

Twitter: @davidcfrancis