FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – April 16, 2015 – Rising wages may lead to more robust housing markets next year in Florida and across the nation, Fannie Mae’s chief economist said Wednesday in Fort Lauderdale.

While salaries have remained mostly flat after the recession, Doug Duncan said wages have inched upward in recent months. If that continues, he said, consumer spending also will rise, and housing almost certainly will benefit as a result.

Duncan added that prospective homebuyers are taking advantage of falling gas prices, resisting the urge to spend and boosting their savings accounts for big-ticket purchases.

“Households have come out of the crisis very conservative financially,” he said. “The potential is there for 2016 to be a pretty good year.”

Duncan, who provides forecasts and analysis on the economy and housing for the government-run mortgage company, was in town to address an estimated 300 real estate professionals at a seminar at the Westin Cypress Creek.

Housing in South Florida and across the state has recovered from the collapse of 2006 through 2011, though strong price increases have leveled out over the past year. Still, some analysts say affordability remains an issue because most of the new construction in the region is geared to affluent buyers.

Duncan said higher salaries would help ease those concerns about middle-income buyers being priced out.

Patrick Flood, regional operating partner of Plantation-based Supreme Lending, said South Florida housing is almost back to what is considered normal by historical standards.

“I feel very good about the sustainability of the market right now,” said Flood, whose firm sponsored Wednesday’s seminar.

While Florida had the nation’s highest foreclosure rate in the first quarter of 2015, Palm Beach and Broward counties continue to see a decline in the number of homes entering foreclosure.

In Palm Beach County, new cases fell by more than half from January through March compared with the same period a year ago, according to the RealtyTrac listing firm. March filings dropped 62 percent from a year earlier.

Broward had a 41 percent decline in the first quarter and a 19 percent drop in March.

“Overall, we are continuing to see the numbers get better, with fewer foreclosures and less distress,” said Daren Blomquist, a vice president of RealtyTrac.

Copyright © 2015 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Paul Owers. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.