South Orange County Blog from Bob Phillips

Last Week’s Economic News in Review

Existing home sales outpaced expectations to hit an eight-year high, while new home sales were at a seven-month low. Meanwhile, lay-offs shrank to their smallest rate in more than 40 years.

Existing Home Sales

Sales of existing single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, increased 3.2 percent to an annual rate of 5.49 million in June, according to last week’s report from the National Association of Realtors. This was not only well ahead of the market expectation for a 5.4 million-unit pace, but marked the highest level in more than eight years.

“Buyers have come back in force, leading to the strongest past two months in sales since early 2007,“ NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said. “This wave of demand is being fueled by a year-plus of steady job growth and an improving economy that’s giving more households the financial wherewithal and incentive to buy.“

Looking at price, the median existing-home price for all housing types in June rose to $236,400, which is 6.5 percent higher than June 2014’s and surpassed July 2006’s peak median sales price of $230,400. Looking at inventory, the supply of existing homes at the end of June grew 0.9 percent to 2.3 million units available for sale. This put the inventory of existing homes available for sale at five months.

“Limited inventory amidst strong demand continues to push home prices higher, leading to declining affordability for prospective buyers,“ Yun noted. “Local officials in recent years have rightly authorized permits for new apartment construction, but more needs to be done for condominiums and single-family homes.“

New Home Sales

While existing home sales skyrocketed, sales of new, single-family homes fell to an annual rate of 482,000 in June, according to last week’s report from the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This was 6.8 percent below May’s revised rate of 517,000, and marked a seven-month low.

However, compared on an annual basis, June’s sales pace was 18.1 percent higher than June 2014’s estimate of 408,000. If anything, the experts advised against reading too much into new home sales, when other real estate activity — such as existing homes sales — was performing so much better.

“We should not get too worried about the signal from the new home sales data at this point,“ JPMorgan Economist Daniel Silver told the Reuters news service.

In terms of prices, the median sales price of new homes sold in June was $281,800, and the average sales price was $328,700. Looking at inventory, the estimated number of new homes for sale at the end of June was 215,000, which represented a 5.4-month supply at June’s sales rate.

Initial Jobless Claims

First-time claims for unemployment insurance benefits filed by recently unemployed individuals plummeted to a 40-year low. Initial jobless claims filed during the week ending July 18, dropped to 255,000, a tumble of 26,000 claims from the previous week’s total of 281,000, the Employment and Training Administration reported last week.

The news marked the lowest point for lay-offs since November 24, 1973’s total of 233,000 claims. The big driver for the substantial drop was likely lay-offs due to restructuring in the car industry, but there was no denying that lay-offs were in retreat.

“This week’s claims reading may have been exaggerated on the low side but there is certainly no sign of the labor market losing momentum,“ High Frequency Economics’ Jim O’Sullivan told the Wall Street Journal. “The message: Employment growth remains more than strong enough to keep the unemployment rate declining.“

The four-week moving average — considered a more stable measure of lay-off activity — fell to 278,500, a decrease of 4,000 from the previous week’s unrevised average of 282,500. This was still well below the 300,000-claim mark that indicates a healthy job market.

This week we can expect:

  • Monday — Durable goods orders for June from the Census Bureau.
  • Tuesday — Consumer confidence for July from The Conference Board.
  • Thursday — Initial jobless claims for last week from the Employment and Training Administration; advanced second quarter GDP estimate from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
  • Friday — Consumer sentiment for July from the University of Michigan and Thompson-Reuters Survey of Consumers.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – June 29, 2015

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - June 29, 2015Last week’s economic news was largely positive as both new and existing home sales beat expectations. FHFA reported that home price growth held steady in May, while weekly jobless claims edged up, but were lower than expected.

New and Existing Home Sales Exceed Expectations

According to the Commerce Department, new home sales reached 546,000 on an annual basis for May. This surpassed expectations for 525,000 new homes sold and April’s revised reading of 534,000 new homes sold. Expectations were based on the original reading of 517,000 new homes sold in April.

Existing home sales rose by 5.10 percent in May to a seasonally-adjusted annual reading of 5.35 million sales and hit their highest level in five and a half years. The National Association of Realtors reported that this was the fastest pace of sales for previously-owned homes since November 2009. Expectations were based on an April’s original reading of 5.04 million sales, which was later revised to 5.09 million existing homes sold.

With wages and hiring picking up, more first-time buyers are expected to enter the market. Economists said there are signs that mortgage credit is becoming more available as lenders gain confidence in stronger economic conditions. A larger supply of available homes was also cited as driving sales of previously owned homes higher.

FHFA: Home Prices Show Steady Growth in May; Mortgage Rates Mixed

The Federal Finance Housing Agency (FHFA), the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reported that home prices related to mortgages owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac held steady with a growth rate of 5.30 percent year-over-year reported in May. This was the same year-over-year home price growth rate that the agency posted in April.

Freddie Mac reported mixed developments for mortgage rates. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose by two basis points to 4.02 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage fell by two basis points to 3.21 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage also fell by two basis points to 2.98 percent. Average discount points were 0.70, 0.60 and 0.40 percent respectively.

Last week’s economic reports ended on a high note with June’s Consumer Sentiment Index reporting a reading of 96.1 as compared to expectations of 94.6 and May’s reading of 94.6. All in all, last week’s economic news provided further indications of stronger economic conditions that should provide the confidence to ease mortgage credit requirements and enable more first-time buyers to purchase homes.

What’s Ahead

This week’s economic reports include date on pending home sales, Case-Shiller’s Home Price Index reports and construction spending. The Bureau of Labor Statistics will also release the monthly Non-Farm Payrolls report and National Unemployment reports. No economic news is scheduled for Friday, July 3 due to the Independence Day holiday.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 27, 2015

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FHFA Home Prices Up in February, Existing Home Sales Highest in 18 Months

The Federal Housing Finance Agency reported that home prices associated with mortgages owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac rose from a 5.10 percent increase in January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.40 percent in February.

The National Association of Realtors® reported that sales of previously owned homes rose to 5.19 million in March as compared to expectations of 5.08 million sales and February’s reading of 4.89 million sales of pre-owned homes.

March sales represented a 6.10 percent gain over February sales; this was the highest volume of existing home sales in 18 months. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR, said that if strong sales of pre-owned homes continue, 2015 could be the best year for existing home sales in nearly a decade.

New Home Sales Lag in March

The Department of Commerce reported that new home sales fell from February’s reading of 543,000 new homes sold to 481,000 new homes sold in March. Analysts expected a March reading of 503,000 new homes sold. This was the slowest pace for new home sales since November, but year-over-year, sales of new homes were 19.40 percent higher year-over-year. The national median home price fell by 1.70 percent to $277,400 year-over-year.

Sales of new homes decreased by 33 percent in the Northeast and fell by 16 percent in the South. New home sales fell by three percent in the West and rose by six percent in the Midwest. At the current sales pace, there is a 5.3 month supply of new homes for sale as compared to a 4.6 month supply in February. Analysts said that stagnant wage growth contributed to fewer home sales.

Mortgage Rates Lower, Weekly Jobless Claims

According to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of mortgage lenders, average mortgage rates fell across the board last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by two basis points to 3.67 percent. The rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage also dropped two basis points to an average of 2.92 percent; the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was four basis points lower at 2.84 percent. Discount points for a 30 year mortgage fell to 0.60 percent; points for a 15-year mortgage were higher at 0.60 percent and average discount points for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell from 0.50 to 0.40 percent.

Weekly jobless claims came in at 295,000 new claims filed; analysts expected a reading of 288,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading was 294,000 new claims filed. Spring break holidays were blamed for higher jobless claims and March job growth hit its lowest in more than a year. Analysts caution against reading too much into weekly fluctuations and prefer to use the four-week rolling average to identify trends in unemployment claims.

What’s Ahead

This week’s housing related economic reports include Case-Shiller 10 and 20 City Housing Market Index reports, the customary post-meeting statement from the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) and pending home sales data.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – April 13, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week April 13 2015Last week’s economic news included the minutes from the most recent FOMC meeting, which indicated that the Fed’s monetary policymakers are eyeing a potential increase in the target federal funds rate, but don’t expect to do so immediately.

Members of the Federal Open Market Committee expressed concerns about lagging housing markets and noted that inflation has not yet achieved the Fed’s two percent goal. When the Fed decides to raise its target federal funds rate, which now stands at 0.00 to 0.25 percent, Interest rates and mortgage rates can be expected to rise as well.

Mortgage Rates Lower, Jobless Claims Rise

Freddie Mac reported that mortgage fell last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by four basis points to 3.66 percent; the average rate for a 15-year mortgage dropped by six basis points to 2.93 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was nine basis points lower at 2.83 percent. Discount points were unchanged across the board at 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

New jobless claims rose to 281,000 against projections of 285,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 267,000 new claims. Analysts said that the Easter holiday week affected weekly jobless claims, and that the varied dates of the Easter holiday and spring break weeks for schools can impact weekly readings for new unemployment claims.

The four-week rolling average of jobless claims fell to its lowest reading since June 2000. The four-week rolling average is considered a more dependable source for identifying labor force trends, as it lacks the volatility associated with holidays and one-time events that can cause great variation in weekly readings for new jobless claims.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s scheduled economic reports include retail sales, retail sales not including the automotive sector, the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book report, which includes anecdotal reports of economic conditions reported to the Fed, and Housing Starts. The usual reports for weekly jobless claims and Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates survey will be released Thursday.

On Friday, the University of Michigan will release its Consumer Sentiment report, which provides indications of how American consumers view current economic conditions. While general in scope, consumer sentiment can suggest how consumers view buying homes.

A lack of positive sentiment about the economy in general and jobs in particular suggests that fewer Americans may be ready to buy homes. Increasing positive sentiment indicates less concern about economic conditions and could point to more Americans entering the housing market as the peak home- buying season gets underway.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – February 2, 2015

Whats Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week Feburary 2 2015Last week’s economic reports included Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Home Price Index reports for November along with new and pending home sales for December. Freddie Mac reported on average mortgage rates and new jobless claims dipped unexpectedly. The details:

Case-Shiller: Home Price Growth Slower in November

Case-Shiller’s 20-City Home Price Index for November indicated that home prices continue to slow across the nation. Seasonally-adjusted annual home price growth slowed to 4.30 percent from October’s reading of 4.50 percent. Slowing momentum in year-over-year home price growth placed downward pressure on month-to-month readings. Several cities, including Atlanta, Georgia, Boston Massachusetts and Cleveland Ohio reported lower home prices in November as compared to October. Chicago, Illinois surprised analysts with a -1.10 percent drop in home price growth for November. Although mortgage rates have fallen in recent weeks, analysts cited tough mortgage approval standards, lower demand for homes and growing inventories of available homes as factors contributing to sluggish housing markets.

New and Pending Home Sales: Mixed Readings

New home sales jumped to a seasonally-adjusted annual reading of 481,000 sales in December against expectations of 455,000 sales and November’s revised reading of 431,000 new homes sold. The original reading for November was 438,000 new homes sold. New home sales were 8.80 percent higher in December year-over-year. The median price of new homes was $298,100 in December, which was an increase of 8.20 percent year-over-year.

Pending home sales reflected sluggish market conditions in December with pending sales lower by -3.70 percent as compared to November’s reading of +0.60 percent. This lull will likely impact completed sales as pending sales generally forecast completed sales within the next 60 days. The National Association of Realtors® said that home prices rose in some areas as supplies dwindled. Fewer homeowners list homes for sale during the fall and winter months than during spring and summer. Analysts also said that home sales trends rely on the willingness of homeowners to list their homes and move up. Although the economy continues to grow, homeowners can impact supplies of available homes if they wait to move up to larger homes.

Mortgage Rates Rise, New Jobless Claims Fall

Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates rose last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was three basis points higher at 3.66 percent; the average rate for 15-year mortgages rose by five basis points to 2.98 percent, and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was 2.86 percent. Discount points fell to 0.60 percent for 30-year mortgages and 0.50 percent for 15-year mortgages. Discount points were unchanged at0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

New jobless claims fell to 265,000; this was lower than the expected reading of 296,000 new jobless claims and the prior week’s reading of 308,000 new jobless claims. Analysts said that the short work week likely contributed to the drop in weekly jobless claims, which was the largest drop in new jobless claims since November 2012. As labor markets improve, more consumers can afford to buy homes. January’s Consumer Confidence Index rose more than expected in January with a reading of 102.9 against expectations of 96.90 and December’s reading of 93.10.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled reports include Construction Spending, Personal Income, Core Inflation, and several employment reports including ADP Payrolls, Non-Farm Payrolls and the national unemployment rate. Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates report and new unemployment claims will be released on Thursday as usual.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 29, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week December 29 2014Last 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.

What’s Ahead

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.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 1, 2014

Whats-Ahead-Mortgage-Rates-7Last 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.

What’s Ahead

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.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – October 20, 2014

WhatsAheadThisWeekLast week’s economic highlights included the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Housing Market Index for October. The Commerce Department also released Housing Starts for September. Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dropped below four percent. The Fed released its Beige Book report, and Weekly jobless claims came in lower than expected. Here are the details:

Homebuilder Confidence Slips in Spite of Lower Mortgage Rates

U.S. Homebuilder confidence in housing market conditions slipped by 5 points to October’s reading of 54 as compared to September’s reading; this was   also lower than the expected reading of 59. Builders are concerned over strict mortgage credit rules, but the NAHB’s chief economist noted that pent-up demand, lower mortgage rates and improved labor markets are expected to drive builder confidence in the near term. Readings of 50 and above indicate   that more builders are confident about market conditions than not.

Freddie Mac reported lower average mortgage rates across the board with the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 3.97 percent, a drop of 15 basis points from the prior reading. 15-year fixed rate mortgages had an average rate of 3.18 percent from the prior week’s reading of 3.30 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell by 13 basis points to 2.92 percent. Average discount points remained at 0.50 for all mortgage types.

If 30-year fixed rate mortgages can stay below the four percent mark, this could mean additional incentive for fence-sitters to become active home buyers.

Surprise: New Jobless Claims Hit 14-Year Low

Concerns over job markets and employment stability have consistently been of concern to home buyers in the aftermath of the recession. Last week’s jobless claims report brought encouraging news as it came in at 264,000 new jobless claims filed against predictions of 289,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 287,000 new jobless claims filed. This was the lowest number of new jobless claims filed in more than 14 years. Analysts said that lower numbers of weekly jobless claims indicate fewer layoffs, which should help boost prospective home buyers’ confidence in job stability.

Fed: Economy Growing at “Modest to Moderate Pace”

The Federal Reserve released its Beige Book report on Wednesday. This report contains anecdotes from business sources within the 12 Federal Reserve districts. The report said that the economy continues to grow at a modest to moderate pace and noted that potential concerns over the stronger U.S. dollar causing increases in export costs did not concern the Fed’s business sources.

Housing Starts, Consumer Confidence Up

September’s housing starts were above both expectations and August’s reading. 1.02 million starts were reported with the majority being multi-family homes. The expected reading was 1.015 million housing starts; this was based on August’s reading of 956,000 starts. This news is consistent with the drop in builder confidence for sales of new single-family homes.

The University of Michigan/Thompson-Reuters Consumer Sentiment Index for October rose to 86.4 against an expected reading of 83.5 and September’s reading of 84.6. This was the highest consumer sentiment reading in seven years. Analysts rained on the consumer sentiment parade by noting that recent jitters over Wall Street and concerns about Ebola outbreaks could cause the Consumer Sentiment Index to lose ground.

What’s Ahead:

Next week’s scheduled economic reports include the National Association of REALTORS® Existing Home Sales report, FHFA’s Home Price Index and New Home Sales. Leading Economic Indicators will also be released.

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What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – Sept 2, 2014

Whats-Ahead-Mortgage-Rates-6Last 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.

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Updating New Home Sales, Existing Home Sales, And The Rental Market

DOC New Home Sales and NAR Existing Home SalesThe Department of Commerce reported July sales of new homes dropped by 2.40 percent over June to a four month low. Analysts noted that although July’s reading of 412,000 new homes sold fell short of expectations and June’s reading, the new homes sector is volatile and subject to change.

June’s reading of 406,000 new homes sold was revised to 422,000 new homes sold; expectations were based on the original reading. Three of four regions posted a slower rate of growth for home prices with only the South posting a gain.

The average price of a new home in the U.S. rose to $269,800, which is 2.90 percent higher than June’s average home price. Inventories of new homes increased to a six-month level based on current sales pace.

This was the highest inventory of new homes available since 2011. Strict mortgage credit requirements and an elevated national unemployment rate contributed to the lower rate of home value appreciation and higher inventories of new homes.

The good news: New home sales increased by 12.90 percent year-over-year in July.

There are presently quite a few areas where you can buy a new home in Orange County, primarily though, in South County. There are pocket communities in Tustin, Irvine, Lake Forest, as well as the entirely new community just South of Ladera Ranch, Rancho Mission Viejo.

Existing Home Sales Rise: Steady Mortgage Rates, Rising Rents Cited

The National Association of REALTORS® reported that July sales of previously-owned homes rose from June’s revised figure of 5.03 million sales to 5.15 million sales and achieved the highest reading for 2014.

The existing home sales readings are calculated on a seasonally adjusted annual basis. Existing home sales were 4.30 percent lower than for July 2013, which had the highest reading for existing home sales in 2013.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the NAR, said that a growing inventory of available pre-owned homes for sale and strengthening labor markets contributed to sales growth. Mr. Yun said that July’s pace of sales was expected to continue based on mortgage rates holding steady and rising rents for apartments.

The inevitable rise of mortgage rates and increasing home prices were cited as factors that could cool existing home sales in coming months. With the Fed scheduled to complete its asset purchase program in October and changes to the Fed’s target federal funds rate expected within months, mortgage rates are expected to rise. Affordability looms as an obstacle to sales; home prices continue to rise as wages grow at a slower pace than home prices.

The national median price for existing homes was $222,900, which was a year-over-year increase of 4.90 percent. This was the 29th consecutive month for year-over-year price gains for existing homes. The inventory of existing homes for sale increased by 3.50 percent to 2.37 million available homes and represents a 5.50 month supply. Unsold inventory of existing homes is 5.80 percent higher year-over-year. As compared to July 2013’s reading of 2.24 million available pre-owned homes.

Homes sold through foreclosure or short sales have steeply declined from 36 percent of existing home sales in 2009 to approximately 9 percent in July and were down from 15 percent of existing home sales in June. ( In Orange County, the percentage of distressed property sales is less than 5%.)

The South Orange County Rental Market is Booming

While both the local new home, and the existing home market’s have slowed considerably as we enter the fall, the rental market has remained quite strong. I have been seeing increases of 7-10% in the rental prices over the past year. Many of my clients who have moved up into a bigger house – if they had the wherewithal – have kept their former home and turned it into a rental. as part of my advice. In almost every case, I’ve been able to get tenants moving in, no longer than a week after my clients moved out.

Vacancy factors have been practically non-existent, as I have also had great success replacing former tenants who have moved on – almost always within a week of the past tenants moving out. The management of rental properties has become an increasingly higher percentage of my business, and my clients have been happily increasing their net worth, with the holding onto, or the acquisition of additional rentals. This is an excellent time to either be, or to become, a landlord.

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