The housing sector will likely take incremental steps forward in 2012, though total originations will fall on fewer refinances, according to economists at Fannie Mae.
The second half of the year should outpace the first six months in terms of growth, though fiscal policy and political uncertainty in Washington will likely drive consumer and business activity, the mortgage giant said.
Chief Economist Doug Duncan said positive consumer activity and challenges in housing and the global economy will equate to moderate growth for the year.
"We're entering 2012 with decent momentum, especially on the employment side, which is fostering positive household and consumer behavior," Duncan said in a release. "Unfortunately, we expect this momentum to slow as we move through the first half of the year."
The report released Friday forecast total home sales to increase 3.5% to about 4.74 million in 2012 from 2011 with another 5% gain in 2013 to nearly 5 million. New home sales could jump 10.4% for 2012.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency home sales price index, excluding refinances, could dip 1.1% for 2012 from a year before, according to the forecast. Economists predicted the 2011 index would finish 4.6% lower than 2010.
Mortgage originations as dollar volume could see a decline as well in 2012, largely on a steep drop in refinances. The Fannie report said total originations will fall to $1.01 trillion in 2012 from a predicted final 2011 tally of $1.36 trillion. Economists expected refinancing to plummet to $540 billion from $894 billion.
Purchase mortgages, however, will rise to $471 billion in 2012 from a estimated 2011 total of $464, according to the report.
Total single-family outstanding mortgage debt will likely drop 1.3% to $10.14 trillion in 2012.
For the U.S. economy as a whole, Fannie researchers predicted real GDP would increase 3.3% in the fourth quarter to finish the year at 1.7% growth. Economists forecast 2.3% GDP growth for 2012 and 2013.