Predicting when the next real estate recession will enter our lives is strictly a matter of educated guesswork. Certain economists and analysts have been predicting it every year.

However, a smaller number have predicted a downturn this year. The market is just too strong and stable for even the doomsayers to project a falling market. But it will come. Real estate is a highly cyclical industry.

"My prediction is that the next recession will begin at 9:15 a.m. on May 16, 2002," said James F. Smith, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors and one of the industry's most respected analysts.

That's when the board of governors of the Federal Reserve System will release their industrial production data for April.

"At that point, we will see how weak the goods-producing sectors of the economy are performing," Smith said in comments reported in the Real Estate Outlook, a publication of the National Association of Realtors.

"Eventually, the Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research, which is the official arbiter of the dates of business cycles in the U.S., will tell us that May 16 was the start of the recession."

Smith said, however, there also would be good news for home buyers and real estate agents at the end of that year. "I also predict that interest rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages will fall to 5.0 percent by December 2002," he said. "That will ignite a boom in refinancing, along with renewing activity in home sales."

Another major expansion in the real estate market will begin in early 2003 and last until 2013, he predicted.