An article by Brena Swanson, of HousingWire.com, dated 9/25/2014:
Nearly 1 million properties returned to positive equity in the second quarter of 2014, bringing the total number of mortgaged residential properties with equity in the U.S. to more than 44 million.
The latest CoreLogic report revealed that 946,000 residential properties regained equity, and nationwide, borrower equity increased year over year by approximately $1 trillion in second quarter 2014.
Negative equity means that borrowers owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth.
“The increase in borrower equity of $1 trillion from a year earlier is evidence that things are moving solidly in the right direction,” said Sam Khater, deputy chief economist for CoreLogic. “Borrower equity is important because home equity constitutes borrowers’ largest investment segment and, as a result, is driving forward the rise in wealth for the typical homeowner.”
However, there are still approximately 5.3 million homes, or 10.7% of all residential properties with a mortgage, that are still in negative equity as of second quarter 2014. This is compared to 6.3 million homes, or 12.7%, for first quarter 2014, and a negative equity share of 14.9%, or 7.2 million homes, in second quarter 2013, representing a year-over-year decrease in the number of homes underwater by almost 2 million, or 4.2%.
“Many homeowners across the country are seeing the equity value in their homes grow, which lifts the economy as a whole,” said Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic.
“With more and more borrowers regaining equity, we expect homeownership to become an increasingly attractive option for many who have remained on the sidelines in the aftermath of the great recession. This should provide more opportunities for people to sell their homes, purchase a different home or refinance an existing mortgage,” Nallathambi added.
For the homes in negative equity status, the national aggregate value of negative equity was $345.1 billion at the end of second quarter 2014, down $38.1 billion from approximately $383.2 billion in the first quarter 2014. Year-over-year, the value of negative equity declined from $432.9 billion in second quarter 2013, representing a decrease of 20.3% in 12 months.
In addition, of the 44 million residential properties with positive equity, approximately 9 million, or 19%, have less than 20-percent equity (referred to as “under-equitied”) and 1.3 million of those have less than 5%(referred to as near-negative equity). ( End of Brena’s article.)
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Last week’s economic news largely concerned the Federal Reserve’s FOMC meeting statement and a post-meeting conference given by Fed Chair Janet Yellen. The FOMC statement indicated that the Fed continued its wind-down of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities and that its purchases are expected to cease after the next FOMC meeting.
The FOMC statement said that committee members find the economy to be improving at a moderate pace and currently strong enough to further reduce the QE3 monthly asset purchases. The Fed seeks to achieve and sustain its dual mandate of maximum employment and an inflation rate of 2.00 percent. While the unemployment rate is lower than the Fed’s benchmark of 6.50 percent, FOMC members cited concerns that the labor force is underutilized and that labor markets, while recovering, could use further improvement. The Fed repeated its customary statement that the Fed’s monetary policies are not on a pre-determined course, and that FOMC members continually review and interpret developing financial and economic news as part of their decision-making process.
Chair Yellen explained during her press conference that it is not possible to provide a specific date when the Fed will change its target federal funds rate. Economists and media analysts expressed concerns that raising the target federal funds rate, which is currently at 0.00 to 0.250 percent, could cause overall interest rates to rise. Chair Yellen said that she expects the current target federal funds rate to remain for a “considerable time” after the QE asset purchases cease. She also said that it is impossible to provide a specific date when the Fed will change its target federal funds rate and cited multiple influences considered by FOMC when changing monetary policy.
Home Builder Confidence Grows, Housing Starts Fall
The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index rose by three points in September for a reading of 59. Analysts had predicted an index reading of 56 against August’s reading of 55. September’s reading was the third consecutive reading above 50. Stronger labor markets were cited as supporting the higher reading, but builders were also concerned by tight mortgage credit standards. Any reading above 50 indicates that more builders perceive market conditions for new homes as positive as those that do not.
August’s housing starts were inconsistent with the Home Builders Index; according to the Department of Commerce, construction of new homes fell by 14.4 percent from July’s reading to 956,000. Analysts expected 1.03 million starts against July’s reading of 1.12 million homes started.
Mortgage Rates Rise, Weekly Jobless Claims Fall
Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates last week. Average mortgage rates rose across the board with the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage 11 basis points higher at 4.23 percent. The rate for a 15-year mortgage also rose by 11 basis points to 3.37 percent and the rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose from 2.99 to 3.06 percent. Average discount points were unchanged for all mortgage types at 0.50 percent.
New weekly jobless claims dropped to 280,000 against an expected reading of 305,000 and the prior week’s adjusted reading of 316,000 new jobless claims. The original reading for the prior week was 315,000 new jobless claims. The less volatile four-week average of new jobless claim fell by 4,750 new claims to a reading of 299,500 new claims.
This week’s scheduled economic news brings multiple housing-related reports. The National Association of REALTORS® will release its Existing Home Sales report for August. Case-Shiller’s monthly Housing Market Index report and the FHFA’s Home Value report will bring new light to national market trends. The Department of Commerce will release its New Home Sales report, and as usual, Freddie Mac’s weekly report on mortgage rates will come out on Thursday.
Last week’s housing related economic reports were slim, but an unexpected increase in weekly jobless claims gained attention. Analysts calmed concerns by noting that last week’s reading of 315,000 new jobless claims was not far removed from jobless claim levels before the recession. Expectations for last week’s reading were for 301,000 new jobless claims based on the previous week’s original reading of 302,000. The previous week’s reading was revised to 304,000 new jobless claims.
Jobless Claims: 4-Week Average for Continuing Claims Hits Lowest Level Since 2007
Prospective home buyers and current homeowners typically consider their jobs and employment prospects before seeking a home purchase mortgage or refinancing their existing home loans. Last week’s readings released by the Department of Labor suggest that while weekly jobless claims increased, overall trends in hiring and continuing jobless claims indicate a stronger labor sector.
The four-week average of new jobless claims rose from 303,250 to 304,000. The four-week average is typically less volatile than week-to-week readings. Continuing jobless claims increased by 9,000 to 2.49 million for the week ended August 30. The four-week average for continuing jobless claims fell by 15,500 claims to 2.50 million continuing jobless claims. This was the lowest reading for continuing jobless claims since 2007.
In other labor related news, job openings were nearly steady at 4.67 million in July against June’s reading of 4.68 million new job openings. The Labor Department reported that job openings increased by 22 percent year-over-year, with private sector jobs rising to 4.19 million job openings and government jobs increasing by 101,000 job openings to 485,000 in July. The number of hires in July rose from June’s reading of 4.79 million to 4.87 million in July. This was the highest number of hires since 2007. Pre-recession hiring levels were approximately 5 million; this suggests that U.S. labor trends are approaching pre-recession levels.
Mortgage Rates Rise, Discount Points Unchanged
Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates on Thursday, with average discount points unchanged at 0.50 across the board. Average rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose from 4.10 percent to 4.12 percent; the average rate for a 15-year mortgage was two basis points higher at 3.26 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose to 2.99 percent from the prior week’s average of 2.97 percent.
This week’s scheduled news includes several reports related to housing. In addition to Freddie Mac’s usual mortgage rates report, The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) will release its Housing Market Index and the Department of Commerce will release data on housing starts in August. General economic reports include the Consumer Price Index, Core Consumer Price Index, and Leading Economic Indicators.
The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve will release its post-meeting statement on Wednesday, and Fed Chair Janet Yellen is also expected to give a press conference. The Federal Reserve may provide further indication of its intention concerning the target federal funds rate, which is currently at 0.00 to 0.250 percent. The Fed may address its intentions concerning the federal funds rate, but the FOMC has been consistently vague about details concerning its economic strategy.
Last week’s economic news included several reports related to housing. The Case-Shiller and FHFA reports for June showed a further slowing in home price growth. New home sales for July fell short of the expected reading, but pending home sales exceeded expectations. The details:
Case-Shiller, FHFA: June Home Price Growth Slows
The Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Home Price Index for June moved from May’s year-over-year reading of 9.40 percent growth to 8.10 percent in June. Home prices grew by 1.00 percent on a month-to-month basis in June as compared to May’s reading of 1.20 percent.
Demand shrank due to increasing inventories of available homes and stricter mortgage standards. For the first time since 2008, each of the 20 cities tracked showed slowing growth in home prices. Home prices are about 17 percent lower than their pre-recession peak in 2006. Case-Shiller also reported that the national median home price rose by 2.90 percent year-over-year to $269,800.
Analysts said that slower gains in home prices coupled with increasing confidence among home builders signals a return to more normal housing market conditions.
FHFA reported that home prices for purchase transactions grew by 0.20 percent less than May’s year-over-year reading of 5.40 percent. FHFA reports on properties connected with mortgages owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
New Home Sales Slip in July, Pending Home Sales Gain
The Department of Commerce reported that New Home Sales missed expectations for July with a reading of 412,000 new homes sold on seasonally adjusted annual basis. June’s revised reading was 422,000 new homes sold, and analysts expected new home sales at a rate of 430,000 in July against June’s original sales pace of 406,000. Three out of four regions posted slower growth rates for new home sales, with the South posted a gain in new home sales. New home sales were 12.30 percent higher than one year ago.
Analysts said that improving labor market conditions and the slower rate of home price growth are positive trends for housing markets as more home buyers can afford to buy homes. Mortgage rates are approximately one-half percent lower than last year, which also increases affordability.
Pending home sales exceeded expectations for July to an 11 month high, which may ease concerns over July’s dip in new home sales. The National Association of REALTORS® Pending Home Sales Index rose to 105.9 in July as compared to June’s index reading of 102.5. Homes under contract increased from a negative reading of -1.30 percent in June to July’s reading of +3.30 percent. Pending home sales are considered a strong indicator of future home sales.
Mortgage Rates Mixed. Consumer Confidence Jumps
Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates were little changed. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was unchanged at 4.12 percent. 15-year mortgages had an average rate of 3.25 percent which was an increase of two basis points over the previous week. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage moved from 2.95 percent to 2.97 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.50, 0.60 and 0.50 percent respectively.
Two gauges of U.S. consumer confidence indicated stronger levels of consumer confidence in the economy. The Consumer Confidence Index rose to 92.4 in August from July’s reading of 91.9 and exceeded a lower expectation of 88.5. The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index rose to 82.5 against July’s reading of 79.2 and the expected reading of 80.1. Increasing consumer confidence suggests that as more consumers become comfortable with current economic conditions, they may be more confident about buying homes.
What’s Coming Up
Next week’s economic reports include construction spending and the Fed’s Beige Book Report. The Bureau of Labor Statistics will also release Non-farm Payrolls and the National Unemployment Rate for August. No activity is scheduled for Monday due to the Labor Day holiday.