Last week’s economic news included several housing related reports. Housing markets continue to cool as November reports on existing and new home sales fell below expectations. New Jobless claims were lower than expected by 10,000 claims. The details:
Existing and New Home Sales Down, FHFA House Price Index Up
The National Association of Realtors® reported that November sales of existing homes fell to 4.93 million sales against expectations of 5.18 million sales. October’s reading was revised from 5.25 million sales to 5.26 million. This was seen as an anomaly that may have occurred during uncertainty caused by volatile stock markets. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen slow housing markets to tight lending standards in a recent statement.
FHFA reported that October home prices connected with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages increased incrementally year-over-year. October house prices increased to 4.50 percent year-over-year as compared to September’s year-over-year house price increase of 4.40 percent.
November sales of new homes fell short of expectations according to the Commerce Department. 438,000 new homes were sold as compared to expectations of 450 new home sales and September’s reading of 445,000 new homes sold. This was the slowest rate of growth in four months.
New home sales declined in three of four regions. Readings for November were -12.00 percent in the Northeast, -6.40 percent in the Southeast, -6.30 percent in the Midwest. Sales of new homes rose by 14.80 percent in the West. Analysts typically caution against reading too much into volatile month-to-month figures, but they are concerned about longer-term sales trends too. Sales of new homes were 1.60 percent lower year-over-year.
The median sale price of new homes was $280,900 in November, which was 1.40 percent higher year-over-year.
Mortgage Rates Up, New Jobless Claims Down
Mortgage rates rose across the board according to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of average mortgage rates. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage increased three basis points to 3.83 percent. The average rate for a 15-year mortgage rose one basis point to 3.10 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was six basis points higher at 3.01 percent. Discount points were 0.60 for 30 and 15-year fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
280,000 new jobless claims were filed last week, a seven-week low. Analysts expected 290,000 new claims based on the prior week’s reading of 289,000 new claims. The four-week rolling average of new jobless claims also showed improvement with 8500 fewer claims at 290,250 new jobless claims filed. Stronger labor markets are considered good news for housing markets as more consumers can afford to buy homes.
No economic reports were scheduled Thursday or Friday due to the Christmas holiday.
This week brings Case-Shiller Home Price reports, Pending Home Sales and Construction Spending. Freddie Mac mortgage rates and Weekly Jobless Claims will be released on Wednesday due to the New Year’s Day holiday on Thursday.
Last week’s scheduled economic events were few but informative. Housing related reports included the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index for December, which stayed close to a nine-year high reading of 59 in September. December’s reading was 57 and fell two points shy of the expected reading of 59. November’s reading was 58. Readings above 50 indicate that more builders are positive about market conditions than those who are not.
Housing Starts for November were lower according to the Department of Commerce’s report released Tuesday. The reading for November was 1.028 million starts on a seasonally adjusted annual basis. Analysts expected a reading of 1.035 million housing starts based on October’s level of 1.045 million starts.
Fed Confident, but Watchful of Economic Conditions
The Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) released its statement at the conclusion of its final meeting in 2015. Fed Chair Janet Yellen also gave a press conference that primarily supported information contained in the statement. The Fed did not foresee rising the target federal funds rate until mid to late 2015, and said that no changes were likely to be made at the first two FOMC meetings of the year. The target federal funds rate remains steady at 0.00 to 0.250 percent. FOMC members noted improvement in labor markets, but said that housing continued to recover at a slow rate. The Fed repeated its customary statement that FOMC members would monitor ongoing economic conditions and developments as part of any decision to change monetary policy. Chair Janet Yellen affirmed the committee’s position in her press conference.
Mortgage Rates, Jobless Claims Fall
Mortgage rates fell according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.80 percent as compared to the prior week’s reading of 3.93 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.09 percent, which was 11 basis points below the prior week’s reading. 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages had an average rate of 2.95 percent; this was three basis points lower than the previous week. Discount points remained steady at 0.50 percent with the exception of average points charged for a 15-year mortgage, which increased to 0.60 percent.
Weekly jobless claims fell to 289,000 against expectations of 295,000 new jobless claims; expectations were based on the prior week’s reading of 295,000 new claims. Analysts cautioned that weekly jobless claims readings can be particularly volatile during the holiday and early winter season.
Economic news scheduled for next week includes the National Association of Realtors® report on November sales of existing homes and November sales of new homes, which is issued by the Department of Commerce. Consumer sentiment, consumer spending and core inflation reports will also be issued next week. No economic reports will be issued Thursday or Friday due to the Christmas holiday.
So – you’re thinking of buying a house and now you’re ready to take the next step and meet with your lender or mortgage advisor for the pre-approval interview. Are you ready?
At this stage of the application process your lender will dig into your financial background to ensure that you’re fully capable of making your mortgage payments and that you don’t present too high a risk. Let’s take a quick look at a few questions you should know the answers to before you go in for a mortgage pre-approval.
Do You Have a Specific Home in Mind?
If you’ve already picked out the perfect new home, be sure to bring along some of the details when you meet with your lender. At minimum you’ll want to know the price range that you’re expecting to buy in so that your mortgage advisor can try to find a mortgage that allows you to purchase the home and still meet your other financial goals.
What is Your Current Income from All Sources?
Your income (and that of your spouse or significant other, if you have one) will be a major factor in the size of your mortgage, your payment terms and the interest rate that you qualify for. If you have a significant income and it’s clear that you will have little trouble making the mortgage payments you’ll likely qualify for a shortened amortization period that includes a lower interest rate. Conversely, if you can only afford to make a bare minimum monthly payment you’ll be facing a longer mortgage term.
Do You Have Any “Black Marks” on Your Credit?
If you have any negative spots in your credit history you’ll want to ensure that you’re able to answer for them, because your lender will certainly ask about them. Be honest and confident, and remember that the lender wants your business as much as you want to receive a pre-approval for mortgage financing.
What Are Your Plans in the Next Five to Ten Years?
Finally don’t forget that interest rates will continue to fluctuate and that may have an impact on your mortgage in the near future. Be sure to share any major financial plans that you have with your mortgage advisor as they can keep you appraised of any refinancing opportunities that come about.
Buying a home is an exciting time – one that will be far less stressful if you are fully prepared for the many steps along the way. Contact your local mortgage professional today to learn more about how you can get pre-approved for mortgage financing. If you don’t have one, I have a couple of lenders I’ve worked with over the years, whom I can wholeheartedly recommend.
Last week’s scheduled economic events were packed into Tuesday and Wednesday, but several housing-related reports were released including the Case-Shiller National and 10-and 20-City Home Price Indices for September, The FHFA House Price Index also for September, and New and Pending Home Sales for October.
Case-Shiller, FHFA Report Slower Growth in Home Prices
According to Case-Shiller home price indices released Tuesday, the national rate of home price growth has slowed from August’s year-over-year reading of 5.60 percent to September’s reading of 4.90 percent. This was the lowest rate of home price growth in two years and was seen by analysts as a positive development in terms of sustainable price growth.
Double-digit percentage gains in home price growth in 2013 and earlier this year drove many would-be home buyers to the sidelines as narrow inventories of homes caused bidding wars in high-demand areas. 20 cities tracked by Case-Shiller had mixed results, with home prices falling in nine cities, rising in nine cities and prices were unchanged in two cities.
FHFA, the Federal Housing Finance Agency and overseer of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reported year-over-year price growth of 4.30 percent in September against August’s reading of 4.80 percent. Lower price gains for September were expected as the prime period of summer sales wound down. FHFA reports on home prices related to mortgages and properties held by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Pending and New Home Sales Show Mixed Results
The National Association of Realtors® reported that the Pending Home Sales Index dipped to 104.3 in October as compared to September’s reading of 105.1.Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors®, said that lagging wage growth and tight mortgage credit conditions were stalling demand for homes. Pending home sales usually close within two months and serve as a gauge for upcoming home sales and mortgage activity. A reading of 100 for the Pending Home Sales Index is equivalent to pending home sales performance in 2001.
Better news came from the Department of Commerce New Home Sales report for October. New home sales achieved a five month high with a reading of 458,000 new homes sold on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis. October’s reading was 0.70 percent higher than September’s reading of 455,000 new homes sold, but missed analysts’ expectations of 469,000 new homes sold. New home sales increased by 1.80 percent year-over-year with regional rates as follows:
- Midwest: +15.8 percent
- Northeast +7.1 percent
- West -2.7 percent
- South -1.9 percent
The median price of new homes rose to a record high of $305,000 in October. The supply of new homes rose to a 5.60 month supply from September’s reading of a 5.50 month supply of new homes.
Mortgage Rates Fall or Flat, Jobless Claims Rise
Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell from 3.99 percent to 3.97 percent; the average rates for 15 year mortgages and 5/1 mortgages were unchanged at 3.17 percent and 3.01 percent respectively. Average discount points were unchanged for all loan types at 0.50 percent.
New Jobless Claims rose to 313,000 last week and surpassed 300,000 for the first time in several weeks. Analysts had expected a seasonally-adjusted reading of 288,000 new jobless claims. Analysts said that a rise in claims could indicate a slower pace in hiring, but said that weekly readings are too volatile to indicate a trend. The four-week average of jobless claims was 294,000 new claims, which was near an eight-year low.
Next week’s scheduled economic events include Construction Spending, the Fed’s Beige Book Report, Non-Farm Payrolls and the National Unemployment Rate. Freddie Mac’s PMMS report on mortgage rates and Weekly Jobless claims will also be released as usual.