Archive for July 2016

Pending Sales Hold Steady In June

Pending home sales are an important indicator of the housing market’s health because they measure contract signings, not closings. Since signings typically precede closings by a few weeks, pending sales are seen as a good predictor of where future home sales numbers will fall. In June, the National Association of Realtors found pending sales up just 0.2 percent over the month before. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said there are not enough homes available for sale and it’s preventing interested buyers from taking advantage of otherwise favorable conditions. “With only the Northeast region have an adequate supply of homes for sale, the reoccurring dilemma of strained supply causing a run-up in home prices continues to play out in several markets, leading to the last two months reflecting a slight, early summer cool down after a very active spring,” Yun said. “Unfortunately for prospective buyers trying to take advantage of exceptionally low mortgage rates, housing inventory at the end of last month was down almost 6 percent from a year ago, and home prices are showing little evidence of slowing to a healthier pace that more closely mirrors wage and income growth.” Still, despite contract signings slowing in June, sales of previously owned homes are expected to finish the year at the highest annual pace in 10 years. More here.

Mortgage Rates Increased Last Week

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates rose across all loan categories last week, including 30-year fixed-rate loans with both conforming and jumbo balances, loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, and 15-year fixed-rate mortgages. The increase slowed mortgage demand, especially refinance activity. Michael Fratantoni, MBA’s chief economist, told CNBC activity has been up-and-down lately, despite the fact that rates are well below where they were last year at this time. “Despite the 30-year fixed mortgage rate being almost 50 basis points lower than a year ago, refinance activity has been extremely sensitive to rate increases as the pool of borrowers who can benefit from refinancing continues to diminish,” Fratantoni said. But it wasn’t just refinance activity, demand for loans to buy homes was also down, dropping 3 percent from the week before. Still, total mortgage application volume is up 42 percent from the same week one year ago. And though that increase can partly be credited to rising refinance demand spurred by declining mortgage rates, home sales are also up over last year. The MBA’s survey has been conducted weekly since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

New Home Sales Up 25% Over Last Year

In June, sales of newly built, single-family homes reached their highest level since 2008, according to new numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The 3.5 percent increase from May puts new home sales 25.4 percent higher than they were at the same time last year. Combined with increasing sales of previously owned homes and a bump in residential construction, the improvement indicates the housing market is gaining strength. In fact, not only were June’s figures higher than economists’ expected, May’s estimate was revised upward as well. However, despite the encouraging news, a closer look at the numbers shows the gains were not evenly distributed throughout the country. For example, the Midwest and West both saw increases of just over 10 percent. On the other hand, the Northeast fell 5.6 percent and the South was basically flat from the month before. Also in the report, the median price for a new home rose 6.1 percent from last year. The median sales price in June was $306,700; the average price was $358,200. But though prices were up, so was inventory. The number of new homes available for sale increased 1.2 percent over the month before. More here.

Real Estate Remains Top Investment Choice

Any investment comes with its own set of risks. But, according to a new survey, Americans feel real estate is the safest place to invest their money long term. The survey, conducted by Bankrate, asked participants to choose what they felt would be the best place to invest money they wouldn’t need for the next 10 years. Results showed respondents chose real estate first among options that included the stock market, gold or precious metals, bonds, and cash investments such as savings and CDs. In addition, the survey found that real estate was the top choice across all age groups, with Americans between the ages of 26 and 35 just as likely as older participants to choose it over other investments. Behind real estate, cash investments came in a close second while the stock market tied for third with gold and precious metals. Considering the stock market’s recent record highs, it is somewhat surprising that it came in third. However, because stocks aren’t a tangible asset like real estate, they are often perceived as more tumultuous and risky. The results seem to indicate that Americans, after years of economic uncertainty, are feeling cautious and are turning to real estate, savings, and CDs because they provide a sense of stability stocks can’t match. More here.

Housing Market Continues Down Familiar Path

The housing market has been fairly steady for quite a while now. Mortgage rates have stayed low while prices continue to rise. In many markets, there are too few homes available for sale – and though affordability conditions have been affected by increasing prices and tight inventory – an improved job market, low rates, and the growing number of Americans who say they want to buy a house have kept things moving forward. So what should you expect for the rest of this year? Well, according to Fannie Mae’s Economic and Strategic Research Group, more of the same. Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s chief economist, says they expect interest rates to remain low through next year helping to support continued gains for the real-estate market. “We still expect moderate housing expansion for 2016. While new home sales have pulled back from their expansion-best, existing home sales rose to the highest level in more than nine years amid the largest year-over-year drop in for-sale inventory since October of 2015,” Duncan said. “Without relief from new construction, housing inventory will likely remain tight, boosting home prices and constraining affordability.” In other words, the housing market should continue to see gains, though they will remain gradual until new home construction picks up and prices begin to moderate. More here.

Existing Home Sales Top Expectations

Sales of previously owned homes were expected to drop in June, following three consecutive months of gains. But, according to new numbers from the National Association of Realtors, home resales beat economists’ expectations and rose 1.1 percent from the month before. The improvement keeps sales at their highest annual pace since February 2007. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, says the housing market has had a solid first half of the year. “Existing sales rose again last month as more traditional buyers and fewer investors were able to close on a home despite many competitive areas with unrelenting supply and demand imbalances,” Yun said. “Sustained job growth as well as this year’s descent in mortgage rates is undoubtedly driving the appetite for home purchase.” Mortgage rates still hovering near all-time lows may, indeed, be making a difference – especially where first-time home buyers are concerned. In June, for example, the share of first timers rose 3 percent and is now at its highest point in four years. Regionally, sales were up over last year in three of four regions, with the West running relatively even with one year earlier. Inventory, however, remains a concern. In June, the number of homes available for sale fell 0.9 percent and is now 5.8 percent lower than it was at the same time last year. More here.

Slight Rate Increase Slows Mortgage Demand

The number of Americans requesting mortgage applications fell 1.3 percent last week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey. The decline was due, in part, to a slight increase in average mortgage rates. The survey found rates up for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with both conforming and jumbo balances, as well as 15-year fixed-rate loans. Mortgage rates for loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration were unchanged from the previous week. Michael Fratantoni, MBA’s chief economist, told CNBC that refinance volume remains high while purchase demand has been slow since the holiday. “Recent swings in mortgage rates have been relatively muted compared to Treasury rates, although on net both remain below their levels from just prior to the Brexit vote,” Fratantoni said. “Refinances fell slightly with rising rates last week, but the refinance share of 64.2 percent of applications was the highest since February of this year, as purchase volume was slow to come back following the July 4th holiday.” Demand for loans to buy homes, though 16 percent higher than last year, has been hampered by lower-than-normal inventory levels across much of the country. The MBA’s weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

New Home Construction Jumps In June

As a home buyer or seller, new residential construction numbers may not seem like they have a whole lot to do with you. But, at a time when there are more buyers than there are homes available for sale, the pace of new home construction has a significant impact on home prices – which are most likely very important to you. In today’s market, for example, home prices are increasing in many areas due to the fact that there is more demand than there is supply. When there are fewer homes for sale, home prices rise as competition among buyers increases. As new homes are built, however, those price increases will begin to moderate and buyers will have more options to choose from. For that reason, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s New Residential Construction report is widely cited as a good barometer of the housing market’s health. According to the most recent report, new home construction rose more than economists’ expected in June. In fact, the number of single-family homes that began construction during the month was 4.4 percent higher than the month before. The improvement was largely due to a 46.3 percent spike in the Northeast and a 17.4 percent pickup in the West. Also in the report, building permits – which are a good indication of future housing starts – rose 1 percent from May. More here.

Builders Still Optimistic About The Market

Because builders have an unique view of the new home market, the National Association of Home Builders tracks their perspective each month as part of their Housing Market Index. The survey has been conducted for 30 years and scores builders’ responses on a scale where any number above 50 indicates more builders view conditions as good than poor. In July, builder confidence was relatively unchanged from the month before, falling one point to 59. Robert Dietz, NAHB’s chief economist, says the market remains poised for growth. “The economic fundamentals are in place for continued slow, steady growth in the housing market,” Dietz said. “Job creation is solid, mortgage rates are at historic lows and household formations are rising. These factors should help to bring more buyers into the market as the year progresses.” Among the survey’s three components, measuring buyer traffic, current sales, and expectations for the next six months, future expectations fell furthest, dropping three points to 66. Regionally, the Midwest, South, and West all continued to post positive numbers, while the Northeast trails behind with a three-month moving average of 39. Builder confidence is considered an important measure of housing’s health due to the important role new homes play in balancing the market. More here.

Down Payment Savings By The Day

Coming up with a down payment can be a struggle, especially for first-time buyers. That’s because – unlike repeat buyers who can use the sale of their current house to help fund their new home – first timers have to come up with the money the old fashioned way. That means, saving it – which can sometimes be an obstacle for younger buyers. A new report from realtor.com takes a look at just how much you’d need to set aside each day in order to save up the average down payment in each of the country’s 15 largest metro areas. To calculate this, they took the median listing price and average down payment in each area, then figured out how much you’d need to save each day over 5 and 10 year periods. For example, to save the average down payment on a median-priced home in the New York metro area, you’d have to save $19.49 every day for 10 years. On the other hand, saving the same amount each day would be enough to come up with a down payment in Phoenix in just 5 years. But what if you don’t have $20 to put away each and every day? Well the article recommends things like putting aside tax refunds and work bonuses, picking up a weekend job, or cutting back on spending. More here.