Housing indicators continue to stabilize, reports the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Experts say these are necessary steps which allow the market to gather strength before it advances. Here are some recent developments –

America’s homeownership rate rose slightly in the third quarter of 2011. About two-thirds of U.S. households live in their own residence now.

If homeownership remains at our current level, the nation’s natural rise in population by itself will create a large increase in home purchasing. More than a million new households are formed annually in this country – and that will lead to 700,000 homebuyers each year, according to NAR.

House prices are leveling out across the country. Real estate values basically held steady during 2011’s third quarter, when compared to the previous three months, states the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices.

Average house prices reached their lows in 2009, according to S&P/Case-Shiller. While values also reflect each local economy’s vitality, overall the real estate picture has been improving for more than two years.

A number of commentators expect home prices to rise this year. For instance, NAR forecasts average prices going up 2.6 percent in 2012.

Pent-up demand will lead to more home buying activity. Housing purchases have been steady the past two years, NAR reports. For 2012 NAR predicts a healthy 4.3 percent increase in buying.

High affordability encourages purchasing. Close to a decade ago, an average home cost around four times a typical family’s income. That was higher than the long-term average price-to-income ratio of 3-to-1. Now we’ve swung the other direction, and homes often are quite cheaper than the customary 3-to-1 relationship.

Low interest rates make this situation even more advantageous for buyers. Combining historic values with some of the lowest rates ever seen lets purchasers gain fabulous deals.

Many buyers report they can move into their own house and pay less each month than they would spend on rent. A fixed-rate mortgage allows them to keep those payments steady, while renters can expect yearly boosts to their housing costs. Unfortunately, neither rock-bottom rates nor terrific housing bargains will be available indefinitely.