South Orange County Blog from Bob Phillips

Pending Home Sales Index Makes New High For 2012

Posted in Housing Analysis by southorangecounty on August 30, 2012

Pending Home Sales Index

In July, the third time this year, the Pending Home Sales Index crossed its benchmark value of 100, moving to 101.7. 

A “pending home sale” is a home under contract to sell, but not yet sold. Data for the index is collected by the National Association of REALTORS® and published monthly.

The rise in July’s Pending Home Sales Index reading is important for two reasons — both of which highlight a U.S. housing market in recovery. Buyer and sellers in South Orange County and across the country would do well to pay attention.

First, the Pending Home Sales Index is at its highest point since April 2010, the last month of that year’s federal home buyer tax credit.

From this, we can infer that the rate at which homes are selling in California and nationwide is approaching the same “stimulated” levels that the tax credit afforded two-plus years ago. The difference is that today there are no buyer tax incentives.

The Pending Home Sales Index readings have climbed steadily since the tax credit’s expiration, too :

  • July 2010 : 78.4 reading
  • July 2011 : 90.5 reading
  • July 2012 : 101.7 reading

Second, because the Pending Home Sales Index is a relative index; and, because it was assigned a value of 100 when it was launched by the real estate trade group in 2001, when the PHSI reads higher than 100, it tells us that homes are going under contract at a faster pace than they did during the index’s first year.

2001 was a strong year for the U.S. housing market. 2012 is on path to be a stronger one.

80% of homes go to closing within two months of contract so, based on the July 2012 Pending Home Sales Index, we should expect for the Existing Home Sales report to rise through the rest of summer and into fall. Home supplies may drop and home prices may rise.

The housing market has expanded slowly and steadily dating to October 2011. Based on last month’s PHSI, that momentum will continue. 

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Existing Home Sales Rise To 4.47 Million

Existing Home SalesHome resales climbed 2% last month as the housing market continues its measured, steady recovery.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, Existing Home Sales rose to 4.47 million units in July on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis.

An “existing home” is a home that cannot be classified as new construction and, despite a reduction in the national homes inventory, the number of previously-occupied homes sold in July was higher by 10% as compared to one year ago.

The Existing Home Sales also reported the folliowing :

  • First-time buyers accounted for 34% of all purchasers, the same as in June
    • Real estate investors accounted for 16% of all purchasers, down from 19% in June
    • Cash buyers accounted for 27% of all purchasers, down from 29% in June

    In addition, the real estate trafde group reports that distressed sales accounted for a smaller percentage of the overall home resale market in July. Just 24% of home resales were for homes in various forms of foreclosure or short sale.

    This is down one percent from June, and five percent from July 2011.

    It also marks the smallest percentage of homes sold in “distressed” status since the trade group began to track such data 4 years ago.

    Lastly, nationwide, the supply of homes for sale dropped to 6.5 months. At the current pace of sales, therefore, the complete U.S. home resale inventory would be sold by the end of Q1 2013.

    There are now 2.40 million homes for sale — a 24% reduction from July 2011.

    For today’s South Orange County home buyers, the July Existing Home Sales report reinforces the notion that housing has been in recovery. Traditionally, however, the market – in this area, anyway – starts to slow down a bit, as we start to head into the fall season. If things play out that way, the next 5 months may become better for buyers, than they’ve been, as there might be fewer buyers to compete against, making sellers a tad more anxious, and therefore more negotiable

    With home inventory low and mortgage rates the same, a slowing fall home resale market will probably look ripe for better deals – for buyers. For anyone who’s been on the fence, looking for an optimal buying moment, the time between now and the middle of January 2013, just might be that time.

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Case-Shiller Index Shows Home Values Rising Nationwide

Case-Shiller Index May 2012

According to the S&P/Case-Shiller Index, home values rose 2.2% nationwide, with all 20 tracked markets making month-to-month improvement. On an annual basis, 17 of the 20 Case-Shiller Index markets improved.

Despite the positive report, however, our enthusiasm for the May Case-Shiller Index should be tempered. This is because the index’s methodology is less-than-ideal for today’s South Orange County home buyer.

There are three main reasons why :

  1. The Case-Shiller Index tracks values for single-family homes only
  2. The Case-Shiller Index is distorted by distressed, discounted home sales
  3. The Case-Shiller Index publishes on a 2-month lag

Perhaps even more important, though, is that the Case-Shiller Index ignores a basic tenet of the housing market — all real estate is local. It’s not possible for 20 cities to represent the U.S. housing market as a whole. Even more egregious is that the 20 markets tracked by the Case-Shiller Index don’t represent the country’s twenty most populated cities.

The Case-Shiller Index specifically excludes home sale data from Houston, Philadelphia, San Antonio and San Jose — four of the nation’s 10 most populated cities. Yet, the index does include data from cities such as Minneapolis, Minnesota and Tampa, Florida.

These two cities rank #48 and #55, respectively.

Furthermore, in its 20 tracked cities, the Case-Shiller Index still manages to fail as a reliable housing market barometer. This is because home values vary by zip code, by neighborhood, and by street, even. All 20 Case-Shiller Index cities showed gains in May, but there remains areas within each metropolitan area in which values outpaced the Case-Shiller Index findings, and areas in which values fell short.

The Case-Shiller Index provides broad, generalized housing market data and that works for an economist. For an active home buyer or seller, though, making smart real estate decisions requires having timely, relevant real estate data at-hand when it’s needed.

For data like that, you should talk with a local real estate agent.  In South Orange County, California, with over 35 years of local experience, that would be me.

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Pending Home Sales Index Falls Just Short Of 100

Posted in Housing Analysis by southorangecounty on July 27, 2012

Pending Home Sales Index June 2012

Home sales appear headed for a mid-summer breather. 

One month after posting a multi-year high, the Pending Home Sales Index retreated to 99.3 in June — a strong reading in its own right.

A “pending home sale” is a home that is under contract to sell, but not yet sold. June’s value of 99.3 marks the 14th consecutive month during which the index showed year-to-year gains.

Last year in June, the index read 90.7.

For home buyers in South Orange County and nationwide, the 14-month winning streak is one worth noting — specifically because the Pending Home Sales Index is different from the other housing market data that tends to make headlines.

Unlike the FHFA’s Home Price Index, for example; or the monthly New Home Sales data which both report on how housing performed in the past, the National Association of REALTORS®’ Pending Home Sales Index looks at how housing will perform in the future.

With high correlation, the Pending Home Sales Index predicts how Existing Home Sales will perform two months hence. This is because 80% of homes under contract convert to “closed sales” within 60 days of going into contract, and many of the rest convert within Months 3 and 4.

In addition, June’s near-100 reading is significant.

The Pending Home Sales Index is normalized to 100, a value which corresponds to the average home contract activity in 2001, the index’s first year of existence. 2001 was an historically-strong year for the housing market which means that June’s market action was also strong.

For today’s home buyers, the Pending Home Sales Index implies that the current market is somewhat “soft” as compared to May, a scenario which lends itself to buyer-friendly negotiations. Plus, with mortgage rates at all-time lows, home affordability has never been higher.

It’s an opportune time to buy a home. By next month, the market may look different.

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Pending Home Sales Index Hits A 2-Year High

Posted in Housing Analysis by southorangecounty on July 3, 2012

Pending Home Sales IndexHomes are going under contract at a quickening pace.

In May, for the second time in 3 months, the Pending Home Sales Index crossed the 100 barrier, stretching to 101.1. A “pending home sale” is a home under contract to sell, but not yet sold.

Statistically, the Pending Home Sales Index reading is significant for two reasons.

First, the index’s reading is at its highest since April 2010. From this, we infer that today’s pace of home buying in California and nationwide is approaching the “stimulated” levels of two years ago — but without the federal stimulus.

This is a positive signal for the housing market.

Second, because the Pending Home Sales Index is a relative index; and, because it was assigned a value of 100 upon its inception in 2001, readings higher than 100 imply that the housing market is performing better than it did during the index’s first year.

2001 happened to be a strong year for housing. 2012, it seems, is shaping up to be a better one.

And, there’s another reason why the Pending Home Sales Index matters so much to buyer and sellers of South Orange County — the Pending Home Sales Index is among the few “forward-looking” housing market indicators.

Rather than report on how the housing market looked 30-60 days in the past, as the Case-Shiller Index does; or the Existing Home Sales report, the Pending Home Sales Index looks 30-60 days to the future.

80% of homes under contract sell within 2 months so, as the Pending Home Sales Index goes, so goes housing. Based on May’s data, therefore, we can assume that home sale figures will rise through the summer.

If you’re shopping for homes right now, consider going under contract while the market remains somewhat soft. Mortgage rates are low and so are home prices. It makes for good home-buying conditions.

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Existing Home Sales Slip 2% In May

Posted in Housing Analysis by southorangecounty on June 26, 2012

Existing Home SalesHome resales slipped last month; a slight setback for the nation’s housing market’s recovery.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, Existing Home Sales fell to 4.55 million units in May 2012 on a seasonally-adjusted annualized basis, representing a 2 percent drop from April.

An “existing home” is a home that’s been previously owned or occupied, and cannot be categorized as new construction.

Despite May’s retreat, however, as compared to last year at this time, Existing Home Sales by units are higher by 10 percent. In other words, like everything else in housing, the long-term statistical trend has been a positive one.

The housing market has seen its bottom and is finding balance.

Other data from the Existing Home Sales report includes :

  • First-time buyers accounted for 34% of all purchasers, down from 35% in April
  • Real estate investors accounted for 17% of all purchasers, down from 20% in April
  • Cash buyers accounted for 28% of all purchasers, down from 29% in April

In addition, distressed sales accounted for 25% of all sales in May, down from 28% in April.

“Distressed sales” include the sale of homes in various stages of foreclosure, and of short sales. This is the smallest percentage of homes sold in a “distressed” status since the real estate trade group began tracking the data in 2008. 

And, lastly, home supplies rose by 0.1 months to 6.6 months nationwide in May. This means that, at the current pace of sales, the complete U.S. home resale inventory would be sold out before the end of 2012.  A 6-month supply is widely believed to represent a market in balance between buyers and sellers.

There are now 2.49 million homes for sale — a 20% reduction from May 2011.

Home resales may have slipped last months but volume remains brisk nationwide. All-time low mortgage rates and high home affordability are keeping buyers in the market. Home prices are rising in many U.S. cities as the housing market continues its slow, steady recovery. 

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Pending Home Sales Slip In May

Posted in Housing Analysis by southorangecounty on May 31, 2012

Pending Home Sales IndexThe housing market took a breather in April.

After forging past its benchmark value of 100 in March, April’s Pending Home Sales Index dropped back to 95.5, its lowest reading of the year. The data suggests fewer home resales throughout California and nationwide in the months ahead.

A “pending home” is a home under contract to sell, but not yet closed. The Pending Home Sales Index is tracked and published monthly by the National Association of REALTORS®.

As a housing market indicator, the Pending Home Sales Index is fundamentally different from other housing metrics which often make headline news.

Unlike the Existing Home Sales report, for example; or the New Home Sales report, the Pending Home Sales Index is purported to be predictor of future housing market performance. It measures the number of homes newly under contract in a given month and, because we know that 80% of homes under contract close within 60 days, the Pending Home Sales Index can foreshadow what’s next for housing.

Other housing market metrics report on events which have already occurred.

Based on April Pending Home Sales Index, therefore, buyers and sellers should expect to see a pull-back in closed home sales through May and June. However, like everything in real estate, home sales remain a local market.

Even by region, performance varied : 

  • Northeast Region : +0.9% from March 2012
  • Midwest Region : -0.3% from March 2012
  • South Region : -6.8% from March 2012
  • West Region : -12.0% from March 2012

Despite three regions posting losses, it’s worth noting that, on an annual basis, all four regions showed gains, led by the Midwest at 23 percent. 

If you’re shopping for homes right now, the Pending Home Sales Index suggests that the current market may be “soft”, a scenario which can create ideal home-buying conditions. With mortgage rates low, home affordability has never been higher.

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Existing Home Sales Climb 3.4 Percent In April

Posted in Housing Analysis by southorangecounty on May 23, 2012

Existing Home Supply

Low mortgage rates are helping to make homes more affordable. It appears home buyers have taken notice.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, Existing Home Sales rose 3.4% in April from the month prior, registering 4.62 million homes sold on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis.

An “existing home” is a home that’s been previously occupied. April’s sales volume represents a 10 percent jump from April of last year.

For buyers and sellers in Rancho Santa Margarita , the April Existing Home Sales report supports the notion that the housing market may be improving; that the “bottom” occurred sometime in late-2011. Home values have been rising in many U.S. markets and home builders now report the highest levels of foot traffic through models since 2007.

Demand for U.S. housing is growing.

It also helps that home affordability is at an all-time high. Not in recorded history have this many homes for sale been affordable to buyers earning a moderate household income, on a percentage basis. Additionally, there is now a larger stock of homes from which buyers can choose.  

In April, the number of homes for sale nationwide jumped 9.5 percent to 2.54 million — the largest home resale inventory of the year.

At the current pace of sales, it would take 6.6 months for the complete home inventory to sell. Analysts consider a 6.0-month supply to be a market in balance. Anything less than a 6-month supply suggests a “buyer’s market”.

Home values peaked nationwide in April 2007. Since then, it’s been an uneven recovery. Some markets came back quickly, while others did not. On a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis, even, there’s signifcant variance in how home values have fared.

In other words, although the April Existing Home Sales report indicates housing strength nationally, it’s the local data that matters most to today’s buyers and sellers. To get real-time real estate data for a particular street or area, talk with a local real estate agent.

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Pending Home Sales Index Crosses The 100 Barrier

Posted in Housing Analysis by southorangecounty on April 27, 2012

Pending Home Sales 2010-2012

After a series of worse-than-expected data last month, the housing market appears to be back on track.

The Pending Home Sales Index posted 101.4 in March, a four percent gain from the month prior and the index’s highest reading since April 2010 — the last month of that year’s federal home buyer tax credit.

A “pending home” is a home under contract to sell, but not yet closed. The Pending Home Sales Index is tracked and published by the National Association of REALTORS® monthly.

The March report marks the index’s first 100-plus reading in nearly two years.

To home buyers and sellers throughout California , this is statistically significant because the Pending Home Sales Index is normalized to 100, a value corresponding to the average home contract activity in 2001, the index’s first year of existence. 2001 was an historically-strong year for the housing market.

The March 2012 Pending Home Sales Index, therefore, puts current market activity on par with market activity from 2001.

You wouldn’t know it from reading this week’s papers, though. There have been stories about how the Case-Shiller Index put home values at new loans; and how the Existing Home Sales figures unexpectedly dropped off; and how the New Home Sales report was a laggard.

But this is why the Pending Home Sales Index can be so important.

What makes the Pending Home Sales Index different from those other data points is that the Pending Home Sales Index is a “forward-looking” housing market indicator.

Unlike most data which aims to tell us how the housing market performed at some point in the past, the Pending Home Sales Index attempts to tell us how the housing market will perform at some point in the future. 

80% of homes under contract close within 2 months. Many more close within months 3-4. Therefore, on the strength of the March Pending Home Sales Index, we should expect a strong April and May nationwide

If you’re shopping for homes right now, consider taking advantage while the market remains somewhat soft. Mortgage rates are low and home prices are, too. It can make for a good home-buying conditions.

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Existing Home Sales Slip In March

Posted in Housing Analysis by southorangecounty on April 20, 2012

Existing Home Sales In March, for the second straight month, home resales slipped nationwide.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, March 2012 Existing Home Sales fell to 4.48 million units on a seasonally-adjusted annualized basis — a 3 percent drop from February.

An “existing home” is a home that’s been previously occupied or owned.

The weaker-than-expected Existing Home Sales data is the third such housing report this month to suggest a lull in the spring housing market. Earlier this week, homebuilder confidence slipped for the first time in three months and March Single-Family Housing Starts fell, too.

The news wasn’t entirely bad for home resales, however. Although total home units sold decreased, so did the number of homes available for sale. There were just 2.37 million homes for sale nationwide in March, a 2 percent drop from the month prior.

At the current pace of sales, therefore, the entire nation’s home resale stock would “sell out” in 6.3 months. This is the second-fastest pace since the housing market’s April 2007 peak.  

A 6-month supply is widely believed to represent a market in balance between buyers and sellers.

The March Existing Home Sales data shows that — despite record-low mortgage rates nationwide — buyer activity in Rancho Santa Margarita is slowing, and seller activity may be slowing, too.

So long as the two forces remain in balance, home prices should do the same. This is the law of Supply and Demand at work. 

However, if home sales continue to slide and home inventory builds, buyers may find themselves with an edge in negotiations. 

If you’re planning to buy a home in 2012, the long-term housing trend is still toward recovery. This season may be a good time to look at your options. Talk to your real estate agent to see what’s available. Low mortgage rates may persist, but low home prices may not.

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