Last week’s scheduled economic news included reports on new and existing home sales, the FHFA House Price Index, weekly reports on mortgage rates, and new jobless claims. The week finished with a report on consumer sentiment.
Existing Home Sales Fall as New Homes Sales and Home Prices Rise
The National Association of Realtors reported that home sales for pre-owned homes fell in August. Analysts expected sales of existing homes to reach a reading of 5.52 million sales on an annual basis, but the actual reading was 5.31 million existing homes sold as compared to July’s reading of 5.58 million pre-owned homes sold. Rising home prices were cited as a primary reason for the drop in sales.
FHFA’s House Price Index for July reflected the trend of rising home prices; July’s reading was 0.60 percent as compared to June’s reading of a 0.20 percent increase in home prices associated with homes with mortgages owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
Sales of newly built homes reached the highest level since early 2008 in August, evidence that demand for housing is strengthening heading into the fall. Home builder sentiment is at its highest level in nearly a decade according to a survey earlier this month from the National Association of Home Builders
Mortgage Rates Fall
Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates fell on Thursday; the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.86 percent; the average rate for a 15-year mortgage was 3.08 percent and the rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by one basis point to 2.91 percent. Discount points were 0.70, 0.60 and 0.50 percent respectively.
Jobless Claims Also Rise As Consumer Sentiment Fell.
The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose slightly last week yet remained at a low level consistent with solid job growth. The Labor Department says weekly applications for jobless aid rose 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 267,000. The four-week average fell to a 15-year low last month.
The University of Michigan says consumers lost confidence for the third straight month in September, worried about bad news about the global economy. Consumer sentiment index fell to 87.2 this month, lowest since October 2014 and down from 91.9 in August. Richard Curtin, Chief Economist for the survey, said consumers are worried about signs of weakness in the Chinese economy and continued stresses on Europe’s economies.
This week’s economic reports include Pending Home Sales, the Case-Shiller Home Price Index, Core Inflation, ADP Employment and the government’s Non- farm Payrolls report. The national unemployment rate and Consumer Confidence Index for September are also slated for release this week.
Last week’s economic releases included several reports related to housing. The Wells Fargo/ NAHB Housing Market Index achieved its highest reading in nearly 10 years. Housing Starts dipped in August and Building Permits issued in August exceeded July expectations. The week’s big news was actually no news. The Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee decided not to raise interest rates. Fed Chair Janet Yellen followed up on the FOMC statement with a press conference and said that the Fed is not yet ready to raise rates, but that a majority of FOMC members are prepared to raise rates before year-end.
Inflation Rate Remains Well Below Fed Benchmark
The Federal Reserve has set a goal of reaching an inflation rate of 2.00 percent as one of several considerations for raising the target federal funds rate that currently stands at 0.00 percent to 0.250 percent. The Consumer Price Index for August fell from July’s reading of 0.10 percent to -0.10 percent in August. Lower prices were driven by lower fuel costs. The dip in consumer costs was the first since January.
The Core Consumer Price Index, which excludes volatile food and energy sectors, was unchanged at 0.10 percent in August, which matches analyst expectations and July’s reading.
NAHB: Home Builder Confidence Hits Highest Level in Nearly 10 Years
The Wells Fargo/NAHB Housing Market Index reached its highest reading since November 2005 with a one-point increase to a reading of 62 in September. Readings over 50 indicate that a majority of builders are confident about housing market conditions. September’s reading was the highest since November 2005, when the NAHB Housing Market Index achieved a reading of 68.
Housing Starts Lower, But Building Permits Rise
The Commerce Department reported that August housing starts fell to a seasonally-adjusted annual reading of 1.13 million starts against projections of 1.16 million starts and 1.16 million housing starts in July. Residential building permits were higher in August with a reading of 1.17 permits issued for residential construction and 1/13 million permits issued in July.
Mortgage Rates Rise
Freddie Mac reported that mortgage rates rose across the board last week. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by one basis point to 3.91 percent. The average rate for a 15-year mortgage also rose by one basis point to 3.11 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage also rose by one basis point to 2.92 percent. Discount points averaged 0.60 got 30-year fixed rate mortgages, 0.70 percent for 15-year mortgages and 0.50 percent for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage.
Next week’s scheduled economic news includes reports on new and existing home sales, FHFA’s House Price Index, along with regularly scheduled weekly reports on new jobless claims and mortgage rates.
A short week after the Labor Day Holiday provided a slack schedule for economic news. Bloomberg reported that residential investment for the second quarter of 2015 represented 3.34 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. Compared to the long-term average reading of 4.56 percent, analysts said that the Q2 15 reading suggested pent-up demand in the housing market that could help propel the economy through any setbacks that could occur when the Fed raises rates.
Pent-Up Housing Demand a Plus when Fed Raises Rates
Job openings rose in July to 5.75 million as compared to June’s reading of 5.32 million. This is a positive indicator for the economy and for the housing sector, as consumer confidence in terms of buying a home typically relies on stable employment and a strong labor sector.
While economic indicators are looking good for housing construction, analysts note that a shortage of construction workers could affect construction of new residential units. Analysts said that children born during the 1980’s will lead the next wave of first-time home buyers, with millennials following. This trend could last for the next 10 to 15 years and is expected to bolster housing markets.
More lenient mortgage lending requirements and rising confidence among home builders were also cited as positive indicators for housing.
Mortgage Rates Mixed
Freddie Mac reported that average fixed mortgage rates rose by one basis point to 3.90 percent for 30-year fixed rate mortgages and 3.10 percent for 15-year mortgages. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell by two basis points to 2.91 percent. Average discount points for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage were unchanged at 0.60 percent and rose to 0.70 percent for 15-year fixed rate mortgages and to 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
Job Openings Rise as Weekly Jobless Claims Fall
July job openings rose to 5.75 million from June’s reading of 5.32 million; this was the highest number of available jobs since records have been kept. Analysts said that the high number of job openings clearly indicate that the labor force is not able to supply the workers needed by employers. Jobs available range from professional to service related work; this suggests a universal trend rather than hiring challenges within specific job areas.
Hiring activity fell in July to 4.98 million from June’s reading of 5.18 million. July separations also fell, which suggests that employers are having problems finding skilled workers and are holding on to experienced workers.
Weekly jobless claims fell to 275,000 from the prior week’s reading of 281,000 new jobless claims.
Next week’s scheduled economic reports include Retail Sales, Consumer Price Index and Core CSI along with the NAHB Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, Commerce Department reports on housing starts and building permits. The Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee will issue its customary statement on Wednesday, followed by highly-anticipated press conference by Fed Chair Janet Yellen.
Peak moving season is underway. While moving can be a stressful undertaking, there are simple ways to make the process more organized. CityLab recently asked moving experts to share some of their top tips to make moving easier. Feel free to share these moving tips with your clients.
- Document all of your cords: “Take photos or make notes on how all of your media equipment is set up: television, sound equipment, modems and computer equipment,” says Lior Rachmany, CEO of Dumbo Moving + Storage in New York City.
- Update your address: Streamline the change of address process by using Updater, which can save time and money by forwarding mail and also updates numerous businesses including alumni associations, charities, and professional organizations with the new address. Updater even shares moving announcements with friends and family.
- Create a pet plan: The moving process can be stressful for pets too. Consider leaving pets with a friend or a boarder until the move is complete. If that’s not an option, this checklist lists 10 tips for keeping pets safe during a move.
- Schedule touch-up paint jobs: If you’re renting, you will need to see if you’re responsible for paint job touch-ups before moving out. If that’s the case, schedule a painter before the move. “Once you have a moving date set, get a painting bid and plan for the painter to be the last person in before you turn the keys over,” suggests Brendon DeSimone, author of Next Generation Real Estate. “Waiting until the last minute could be a logistical nightmare.”
- Recruit some help. Not using a mover? Make sure you repay family and friends for their help in some way (pizza is always a good incentive!)
- Plan a “first night in the new house” box: The last thing you’ll want to do after moving all day is to dig through numerous boxes to find your toothbrush. Designate a box for your toiletries, medications, deodorant, and a change of clothes so they’re easy to find.
- Your suitcases are your friends: Use your large suitcases as easily transportable storage! Fill them up with clothes, towels, and light-weight items.
- Be mindful of important documents: Don’t toss your birth certificate or other important but easy-to-lose documents in random boxes. Make a folder with anything important and carry it with you.
- Strategize your layout: Put labels on items for movers so they don’t put them in the wrong room. You can also make signs showing where large items need to be.
- Save all receipts: “In many cases, moving expenses are deductible from federal income taxes,” says Rachmany of Dumbo Moving + Storage. “If you’re moving because of a change in employment, you may be able to claim this deduction even if you do not itemize.” Try to keep track of all moving costs for your accountant.
Source: “13 Tips to Make Moving Slightly Less Hellish,” CityLab (Aug. 6, 2015)
VA, Communities, Helping Homeless Veterans
Some of the really great things being done to help homeless Veterans are taking place every day at VA’s Community Resource and Referral Centers (CRRC). Here are just a few of their impressive success stories:
— Homeless Veteran M is 60 years old and will not be parted from his two cats. After his wife and mother died, he did not have enough money to pay his rent so he was evicted. He put all his belongings in a storage locker but then did not have enough money to pay the storage fee and was about to lose all his belongings. Gil, with the Community Resource and Referral Center, found a way to get him some money to pay his storage fee, hooked him up with some job possibilities and is helping him find a home … for him and his cats.
There are 29 VA Community Resource and Referral Centers around the country. As national director Eileen Devine describes them, “The CRRCs, by design, are a low-barrier, central access point for resources and referrals for homeless Veterans, where they can receive rapid and comprehensive services.
“We see the positive results every day. In FY2014, there were over 20,000 Veterans who accessed services through the CRRCs, and we anticipate that by the end of FY15 we will have exceeded this number.”
— Mike works at one of VA’s CRRCs and is also an umpire. He found out that two of the other umpires were Veterans and were not doing well. One was homeless and was “couch hopping” among family members. The other Veteran had not worked in two years. Both were showing signs of depression and drinking problems. Mike convinced them both to come into the CRRC to seek services. One Veteran now has a full time job. The other Veteran thanked Mike for getting him to come in talk with the folks at the CRRC and that it has given him the desire to improve himself and put a positive spin on things.
Homeless Veterans on the street need help. Help finding housing, a job or financial assistance, or access to health care. Maybe it’s just access to some basics — a place to get food, a shower, a change of clothes or a place to do laundry, or a ride to the medical center.
“There needs to be coordinated efforts to fully utilize all the resources available.”
Fortunately, for an increasing number of these men and women, Community Resource and Referral Centers are there to help. CRRC programs are places where Veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness can get connected to stable housing and an array of supportive services. CRRCs provide a “one-stop shopping” opportunity in many densely populated, strategically located sites across America.
— CRRC employee Terry helped a Veteran who had just moved into his state find a job. The Veteran was approved for a gas card but could not leave his new job and did not have enough gas … or money … to get home. So Terry left his office and picked up the card and took it to the Veteran, who was very grateful.
Devine explains: “The CRRCs are a key component of VA’s initiative to end homelessness among Veterans and for good reason. We know that in order to end Veteran homelessness in our communities, there needs to be coordinated efforts to fully utilize all the resources available within that particular community.
“In addition to maximizing all of these resources, we need to also create the lowest barrier possible to all services. This enormous goal cannot be realized without very active communication and teamwork both within the VA homeless program and the larger community of homeless service providers.”
— When CRRC employee John met Veteran X, he learned that he had been sleeping in his trailer for several years with no running water or electricity and in 100 degree Phoenix temperatures. He cited posttraumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma and termination from his last job as his reasons for not looking for employment. John found a safe place for him at the James Walton House even though he said he’d rather be alone. John encouraged him to socialize with other residents and to work with the CRRC employment specialist. He not only made great progress but earned the nickname “Handyman” for rebuilding furniture, repairing the refrigerator and helping in the kitchen. Veteran X is now more positive about life and very thankful for everything VA has done for him.
Many CRRCs across the country are the points-of-contact for community lead efforts to end homelessness. Veterans are benefiting through immediate and direct referrals to the most appropriate services needed to resolve their particular situation rather than going from one agency after another to find help.
CRRCs also conduct street outreach to engage homeless Veterans who, for a variety of reasons, have not come in seeking services on their own. This translates to an increase in CRRC services being offered and an increase in low-barrier access to services for Veterans who need them.
As director Devine notes, “The CRRCs and their staff are not only providing vital and tangible resources to homeless Veterans but are seeking to refine and improve the systems these Veterans inevitably must engage in their search for assistance.
“Although it is a massive job we’ve asked them to do, they manage to do it exceptionally well.”