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.
The S&P Case-Shiller 10 and 20 city housing market indices, the FHFA House Price Index, New Home Sales and Pending Home sales reports suggest that the national housing market continues to grow, but at lower rates.
Regional readings varied and suggested that winter weather was a negative influence on affected markets.
In a press conference held on March 19 Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said that severe winter weather had interfered with the Fed’s ability to get a clear reading on economic developments.
The Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Home Price Indices for January showed year-over-year growth of 13.50 and 13.20 percent respectively. The 20-City Home Price Index reported that 12 of 20 cities reported slower rates of home price appreciation.
The 10-City Index ticked upward, but was little changed. The 20-City index posted its third consecutive month-to-month decline in home prices with a reading of -0.10 percent.
Las Vegas, Nevada led cities posting gains with a month-to-month reading of +1.10 percent, but home values remain 45 percent below peak prices achieved in August 2006.
David M. Blitzer, chair of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, noted that home prices were up 23 percent over their lows in 2012.
FHFA Data Reflects Slower Growth in Home Prices
The FHFA House Price Index reports home price trends for sales of homes with mortgages owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. January’s data reported a year-over-year gain of 7.40 percent, which is approximately 8.0 percent below its peak in April 2007.
Month-to-month home prices varied within the nine U.S. Census regions and ranged from -0.30 percent to +1.30 percent.
FHFA reported that year-over-year, all nine regions reported gains in home prices that ranged from +3.20 percent in the Middle Atlantic region to 14.0 percent home price growth in the Pacific region.
New and Pending Home Sales Slow
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, February sales of new homes matched projections at 440,000 as compared to January’s revised reading of 455,000 new homes sold, which was a year-over-year high.
New home sales improved by 37 percent in the Midwest, but fell in the Northeast, South and West. This suggests that while winter weather played a role, but that housing markets are cooling in general.
Rising mortgage rates and concerns over new lending standards likely contributed to the drop in sales.
Pending home sales slumped in February according to the National Association of REALTORS®.
February’s index reading of 93.9 as compared to January’ index reading of 94.7 represented the eighth consecutive monthly drop for pending home sales and was the lowest reading since October 2011.
Pending home sales indicate future completed sales. Lawrence Yun, the NAR’s chief economist, noted that home sales delayed by winter weather may be completed this spring.
Mortgage Rates Rise, Jobless Claims Lower Than Predicted
Freddie Mac reported that average mortgage rates rose across the board last week with the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rising eight basis points to 4.40 percent. 15-year fixed mortgage rates rose 10 basis points to 3.42 percent.
Average rates for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose from 3.02 percent to 3.08 percent.
Discount points for fixed rate mortgages were unchanged at 0.60 percent and ticked upward from 0.40 to 0.50 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.
What’s Coming Up This Week
This week’s scheduled economic news includes Construction Spending for March, ADP payrolls for March along with Freddie Mac’s PMMS weekly report on mortgage rates and the BLS Non-Farm Payrolls report.
Pending home sales fell in September by -5.60 percent, and were 1.20 percent lower year-over-year. This is the first time in more than two years that pending home sales have fallen below year-earlier readings. September’s reading was below August’s reading of -1.60 percent.
The National Association of REALTORS®, which released the report, expects lower home sales for the fourth quarter of 2013 and flat sales into 2014. NAR provided good news in its forecast of 10 percent growth in existing home sales in 2013 as compared to 2012.
A spike in mortgage rates in August coupled with rapidly rising home prices were seen as major factors leading to lower pending sales.
Real estate analysis firm CoreLogic has reported that August home prices were 12.4 percent higher than for the previous 12 months; this was the fastest annual growth rate for home prices since February 2006.
While positive news for homeowners and housing markets, rapidly rising home prices can cause some buyers to postpone or cancel their plans for purchasing a home.
Economic, Government Policy Challenges Reduce Buyer Enthusiasm
In addition to higher mortgage rates and home prices, recent concerns of investors and consumers about the government shutdown and its consequences were noted as factors contributing to lower pending home sales.
High unemployment rates are a lingering influence, as would-be home buyers waver in their decisions to take on a long-term obligation when unemployment rates remain higher than normal and job security is questionable.
Fed Expected To Maintain Bond–Buying At Current Level
The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve meets this week and is expected to maintain its current level of $85 billion per month in Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities. The fed’s program is intended to keep long-term interest rates, including mortgage rates, low as a means of supporting the economic recovery.
Mortgage rates are affected by bond prices; if the fed reduces its monthly bond purchases, demand for bonds would fall, and mortgage rates would be expected to rise.
Mortgage rates spiked in August on expectations that the FOMC would taper its monthly bond-buying, but have since trended lower.
The housing market appears headed for a strong spring season.
After a brief setback in December, the Pending Home Sales Index resumed its climb in January, posting a 2 percent gain over the month prior.
The data puts pressure on Coto de Caza home buyers. This is because a “pending home” is a home that’s under contract to sell, but has not yet sold. It’s tracked by the National Association of REALTORS® and, among all housing statistics, it’s the only one that’s “forward-looking”.
The Pending Home Sales Index is important to home buyers throughout California because 80% of homes under contract to sell close within 60 days of contract. In this way, the Pending Home Sales Index forecasts the housing market 1-2 months into the future.
This is very different from how NAR’s Existing Home Sales report works; or, how the Census Bureau’s New Home Sales report works. These two metrics tell us what’s already happened in housing.
By contrast, the Pending Home Sales Index tells us what’s coming next.
January’s Pending Home Sales Index reading lifts the monthly metric to its highest level since April 2010 — the month during which the 2010 federal home buyer tax credit expired — foreshadowing a strong housing market through March and April 2012, at least.
This should not be news, of course. The nation’s home builders have said “foot traffic” is rising and home supplies are scarce nationwide. The only wild-card for housing is the high contract cancellation rate.
As compared to last January when just 9 percent of home purchase contracts “failed”, this January saw 33 percent of contracts fail. High failure rates undermine the Pending Home Sales Index’s viability as a forward-looking housing market indicator.
Despite contract failures, though, the combination of low mortgage rates and low home prices is enticing to today’s home buyers. Expect home sales to climb in the coming weeks which will lead to a strong spring season for housing.
If you’re waiting for home prices to reach its bottom, you may have missed your window.
After 3 consecutive months of easing, the Pending Home Sales Index jumped 10 percent in October, lending credence to the belief that housing is in recovery.
The Pending Home Sales Index is a monthly publication from the National Association of REALTORS®. It measures the number of homes under contract to sell nationwide. October’s reading is the highest for all of 2011, and the second-highest dating back to April 2010.
April 2010 was the last month of the last year’s federal home buyer tax credit.
For buyers and sellers in Trabuco Canyon and nationwide, the Pending Home Sales Index is a housing metric worth watching. Different from the Existing Home Sales and New Home Sales reports which report on “the past”, the Pending Home Sales Index is a forward-looking housing market indicator.
According to the National Association of REALTORS®, 80% of homes under contract close within 2 months.
The majority of the rest close within Months 3 and 4.
The spike in October’s Pending Home Sales Index, therefore, foretells a strong Existing Home Sales report for November and December. Not that we should be surprised! Home builders have been telling us for weeks that the market is strengthening, and that home supplies are at multi-year lows.
The only wild-card is the market’s out-sized contract failure rate. One in three pending home sales failed to close in October — nearly double the rate of the month prior and 4 times the rate of October 2010. Should this high failure rate continue, the Pending Home Sales Index’s role as a forward-looking indicator would be muted.
Overall, though, new buyer demand for housing accompanied a smaller home supply will result in higher home prices through 2012. And, with mortgage rates expected to rise, monthly carrying costs will be higher, too.
Looking at the data, the best time to buy a home may be right now.
Nationwide, fewer homes are going under contract to sell.
According to the National Association of REALTORS®, the Pending Home Sales Index fell 5 percent last month. September marks the fourth consecutive month in which the index has dropped.
The Pending Home Sales Index is a monthly index which measures the number of homes under contract to sell, but not yet closed. As such, it’s among the few “forward-looking” housing indicators; a data set meant to predict future home sales.
80% of homes under contract close within 2 months so, if the September Pending Home Sales Index is to be believed, we should expect home sales to decline through October and November.
And that’s before we account for cancelled contracts.
Also from the National Association of REALTORS®, we learn that 18 percent of homes under contract failed to close in September. This is double the failure rate from September 2010 and it, too, should drag Existing Home Sales volume lower this fall.
On a seasonally-adjusted, regional basis, the Pending Home Sales Index fell everywhere.
- Northeast Region: -4.7% from August
- Midwest Region : -6.2% from August
- South Region : -5.5% from August
- West Region : -2.1% from August
For home buyers and sellers in Trabuco Canyon , though, regional data remains too broad to be useful. Housing markets are local, meaning that each block on each street on each city has its own distinct economy. When 9 states are grouped into a single “region”, it’s neither helpful nor relevant to people making buy/sell decisions.
That said, the Pending Home Sales Index remains important because it’s about housing, and housing is a keystone of the U.S. economic recovery.
The market looks ideal for buyers. Home prices are rising, but slowly; and mortgage rates remain near rock-bottom levels. Home affordability is high and should remain that way for the next few weeks.
If you’re shopping for a home, it’s an excellent time to go under contract.
The Pending Home Sales Index plunged in May 2010, just one month after the expiration of the federal home buyer tax credit program.
The Pending Home Sales Index is now at a record-low level.
A “pending home sale” is an existing home under contract to sell, but not yet closed. According to the National Association of Realtors®, 80 percent of homes under contract close within 60 days.
Because of this timeline, we can expect the summer’s Existing Home Sales to be weak, too. With fewer homes going under contract, fewer homes can close.
On the surface, May’s Pending Home Sales Index looks like terrible news for housing. And, if you’re a seller, it just might be. But, if you’re a buyer, the story reads differently. Just consider the market conditions.
A broad look at the housing market shows:
- Home supplies are rising in most markets
- Home sales are falling in most markets
- Mortgage rates are at all-time lows
In other words, in most markets, more sellers are competing for fewer buyers, and the “winning” buyers are financing their homes at the lowest rates in history.
It’s an excellent time to be a home buyer in Rancho Santa Margarita.