Increasing Home Prices Good For Sellers
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported lower sales of pre-owned homes in February. Would-be buyers were discouraged by rapidly rising home prices. Short supplies of available homes sidelined potential buyers as higher home prices and cash buyers squeeze out buyers who need mortgages to buy homes. Multiple offers resulting in bidding wars have also deterred buyers in high demand markets. According to NAR’s February report, sales of existing homes fell 7.10 percent to their lowest level since November.
NAR has predicted that rapidly rising home prices would eventually damage housing markets. While analysts weren’t certain whether February’s report indicated a temporary lull due to weather and anomalies related to new closing regulations and seasonal influences, NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said, “The main issue continues to be a supply and affordability problem. Finding the right property at an affordable price is burdening many potential buyers.”
During the housing bubble, buyers jumped into the market as speculators or to buy before home prices increased beyond their reach. NAR surveyed renters last week and found that the percentage of renters who believed that it’s currently a good time to buy a home decreased.
Respondents to Fannie Mae’s February Home Purchase Sentiment Index forecasted a 1.70 percent increase in home prices year-over-year. One year ago, respondents expected home prices to increase by 2.50 percent year-over-year. This may suggest that home prices are cooling. This can be expected as the number of buyers declines as home prices become increasingly unaffordable.
New Home Sales Up in February
New home rose in February according to the Commerce Department. Based on a revised reading of 502,000 new home sales in January, February’s reading was 2.00 percent higher than January’s reading, but was 6.10 percent lower than for February 2015.
Builders have held back on increasing construction due to concerns about ups and downs in the economic recovery. Short supplies of labor and available land have also kept home builders from meeting current demand.
Mortgage Rates Trend Lower
According to Freddie Mac, average mortgage rates fell across the board last week. The rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by two basis points to 3.71 percent; the rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell three basis points to 2.96 percent and the rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell four basis points to 2.89 percent.
New jobless claims rose to 265,000 from the prior week’s reading of 259,000 new claims. Last week’s reading matched analyst expectations.
What‘s Ahead This Week
This week’s scheduled economic news includes reports on inflation, pending home sales, Case-Shiller’s Home Price Index reports and government and private sector employment data. Weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims are also scheduled.
Last week’s economic news included Fannie Mae’s Home Purchase Sentiment Index along with weekly reports on mortgage rates and new jobless claims. The City of Detroit also announced a program to help would-be buyers purchase homes that do not qualify for mortgage loans due to severe damage.
Fannie Mae: Home Buyer Sentiment Index Rises
Fannie Mae’s Home Buyer Sentiment Index (HBSI) gained 1.20 percent for an overall reading of 82.70 percent for February. The index reading is calculated using responses to several questions contained in Fannie Mae’s National Housing Survey. HBSI components include consumer responses to questions about whether it’s a good or bad time to sell or buy a home, consumer expectations concerning whether home prices and mortgage rates will rise, whether respondents expected to keep or lose their jobs, and consumer outlook for their income to significantly increase year-over-year.
The HBSI is designed to assess consumer attitudes about housing markets and their decisions about buying a home.
Mortgage Rates Rise, Weekly Jobless Claims Fall
Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates rose across the board last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose four basis points to 3.68 percent; the average rate for a 15-year mortgage rose two basis points to 2.96 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was eight basis points higher at 2.92 percent. Discount points averaged 0.50 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
New jobless claims dropped to a five-month low last week with a reading of 259,000 new claims filed as compared to expectations of 275,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 277,000 new claims. New claims readings under 300,000 new claims indicate a healthy labor market; new claims readings have held below the 300,000 benchmark for more than a year. The lowest reading of 256,000 new jobless claims occurred in October 2015.
City of Detroit Addresses Problems with Ravaged Homes
The City of Detroit announced a program designed to facilitate the purchase and rehabilitation of vacant and damaged homes that do not meet appraisal requirements for traditional home loans. While many markets have recovered from the Great Recession, housing markets such as Detroit have languished due to the lack of financing options. The program offers mortgages to cover the home purchase and second mortgages up to $75,000 for repairs and renovation. Program administrators say they plan to issue 1000 loans over the next three years. This type of program may help struggling housing markets recover while providing homeownership opportunities to those who could not otherwise afford to buy a home.
What’s Ahead This Week
This week’s scheduled economic events include the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, federal reports on housing starts and building permits issued. The Federal Reserve will release its usual post-meeting statement after its Federal Open Market Committee meeting. Fed Chair Janet Yellen will also hold a press conference.
Week in Review
Last week’s scheduled economic news included reports on pending home sales, construction spending and several jobs related readings including ADP Payrolls, the government’s Non-Farm Payrolls and the national unemployment rate.
Mortgage Rates, Weekly Unemployment Claims Rise
Mortgage rates rose across the board according to Freddie Mac’s weekly report. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose two basis points to 3.64 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by one basis point to 2.94 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose five basis points to 2.84 percent. Discount points were consistent at 0.50 percent for all three types of home loans.
Weekly jobless claims also rose to 278,000 new claims as compared to expectations of 270,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of $272,000 new jobless claims. While an increase in new unemployment claims may seem discouraging, new claims for unemployment remain near pre-recession lows.
The four-week rolling average of new jobless claims dropped by 1750 claims to 270,250 and reached its lowest reading in three months. Analysts view the four-week reading as more reliable than week-to-week readings that can be volatile.
Pending Home Sales and Construction Spending
In other news, pending home sales fell by 2.50 percent as compared to December’s reading. Analysts expected an increase in pending sales of 0.50 percent; December’s reading was 0.10 percent higher than for November. Pending home sales represent sales contracts that have not yet closed and are considered an indicator of future closings and mortgage activity.
Home sales have been impacted in recent months by a shortage of available homes; this creates a backlog of would-be buyers who can’t find homes they want to buy and also causes rapidly escalating home prices in desirable areas. Bidding wars and cash sales can sideline buyers who can’t pay cash or are whose offers are outbid.
Analysts say that new home construction is a key component of easing the housing shortage. Construction spending increased by 1.50 percent in January, but month-to-month spending for residential projects was flat in January. Spending for residential projects was 7.60 percent higher year-over-year.
Labor Reports Reflect Stronger Economy
Federal and private sector reports on jobs indicate that job growth continues. The Department of Commerce reported that Non-Farm Payrolls grew by 242,000 jobs in February, which was higher than expectations of 195,000 new jobs and January’s reading of 172,000 new jobs. According to ADP, which tracks private sector payrolls, 214,000 new jobs were created in February as compared to expectations of 185,000 new jobs and January’s reading of 193,000 new jobs.
Improving jobs markets are a positive indicator for housing markets as stable employment is important to home buyers’ ability to qualify for mortgages. The National Unemployment Rate remained stable in February with a reading of 4.90 percent; the expected reading and prior month’s reading were also 4.90 percent.
Next week’s scheduled economic reports include the NFIB Small Business Index and February’s Federal Budget along with regularly scheduled weekly reports on mortgage rates and new unemployment claims.
From Jonathan Lansner of the Orange County Register, 3/1/2016
“Orange County’s housing inventory maven, Steve Thomas, isn’t mincing words: “Seller Drought” is how he titled his latest biweekly newsletter.
ReportsOnHousing.com notes the number of homes listed on local brokers’ networks increased by 298 homes, or 6 percent, in two weeks to 5,271 on Feb. 25. Thomas notes this was the largest jump in supply since May 2014.
So why does Thomas think inventory is so slim, a shortage that frustrates house hunters?
Well, supply growth in January was 9 percent below 2015 levels and even with the recent burst in listing activity, inventory is still 3 percent off a year ago and far below the historic average supply of 9,200 homes for sale.
“Essentially, the low inventory is preventing would-be sellers from coming on the market, which only exasperates the problem,” Thomas wrote.
ReportsOnHousing.com notes that demand, the number of new pending sales over the prior month, increased by 242 homes in two weeks to 2,584 on Feb. 25, the highest since September 2015. Still, demand is down 11 percent in a year, partly due to limited selection for house hunters.
Thomas calculated “expected market time” – how long it would take current inventory to sell at pace of demand – 61 days on Feb. 25. That’s up from 56 days a year ago but better than 66 days two years ago.” ( End of Jonathan’s article.)
From Bob Phillips: We are now one month into this year’s “Spring selling season” when the number of homebuyers starts to grow with a vengeance. That growing number of buyers needs something to buy, and if the local housing inventory doesn’t start to grow soon, there will be an increasing likelihood of multiple buyers for each nice house to come upon the market, which translates to increasing prices.
In 2013, local home prices went up more than 15% between February 1st, and July 31st, our typical “buying season”. That’s the LAST thing today’s homebuyers need, so hopefully the number of homes available will start increasing, to match the number of buyers.
Keep your fingers crossed and watch this space.