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Case-Shiller index Shows Home Values Rising Nationwide, Too

Case-Shiller Index annual change July 2012

There have been no shortage of “housing market” stories lately. After sinking through much of late-last decade, home values slowly stabilized into mid-2011. By October 2011, values appeared to have bottomed.

Today, nearly five-and-one-half years after the April 2007 housing market peak, home prices are finally showing their ability to rebound. Over the past 12 months, a bevy of housing market data highlights broad-based market growth.

For example, as compared to August 2011, Existing Home Sales are up 9.3 percent nationally; New Home Sales are up 27.7 percent nationally; and home inventories have slipped to multi-year lows in Phoenix and throughout the country.

Furthermore, multiple home value trackers show home prices rising both regionally and nationwide.

Last week, the government’s Federal Housing Finance Agency released its Home Price Index (HPI) — a metric which tracks how home values change between sequential property sales. HPI showed home values up 3.7% nationally.

Another home valuation tracker — the S&P Case-Shiller Index — has shown home values to be rising, too.

As compared to one year ago, the private-sector metric puts home prices higher by 1.2 percent via its 20-city composite. 20 cities remains a small subset of the broader U.S. population, but, in looking for a trend, it’s clear that the trend is a positive one.

Some of the Case-Shiller Index highlights from its most recent report :

  • All 20 tracked cities showed home price gains between June 2012 and July 2012
  • The previously hard-hit city of Phoenix now leads the nation with a 16.6% annual gain
  • Versus their respective lows, San Francisco and Detroit are up 20.4% and 19.7%

In addition, on a 12-month basis, only four cities are showing negative home value growth — Atlanta, Chicago, Las Vegas, and New York City.

The Case-Shiller Index is a national index, though, and specifically does not report on valuation changes in specific U.S. cities and their neighborhoods. For local real estate data, make sure to speak with a local real estate agent instead.

October 2, 2012 Posted by | Housing Analysis | , , | Leave a comment

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : October 1, 2012

Jobs report threatens low mortgage ratesMortgage rates dropped to another all-time low last week as concerns for global economic growth helped U.S. home buyers and refinancing households nationwide. 

U.S. mortgage rates responded to non-U.S. events and, for rate shoppers and home buyers in Phoenix , home affordability improved.

Early in the week, with Greece and Spain debating new austerity measures, and with citizen protests rampant, a flight-to-quality helped to boost demand for U.S. mortgage bonds. So did rumors of a weakening Chinese economy.

“Flight-to-quality” is a trading term for when investors shun investment risk in favor of safer, more high-quality portfolio assets. Typically, this involves selling stocks and buying bonds, including mortgage-backed ones.

When demand for mortgage-backed bonds rise, mortgage rates tend to fall.

Demand for bonds is also receiving a boost from the Federal Reserve’s latest market stimulus program — QE3.

“QE3” is a shorthand term for the Fed’s third qualitative easing, a program by which the nation’s central banker buys mortgage-backed securities on the open market in hopes of driving mortgage rates down.

So far, it’s been working. Since the Federal Reserve announced QE3 in mid-September, conforming mortgage rates have been on steady decline.

According to Freddie Mac, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate slipped to 3.40% nationwide last week with an accompanying 0.6 discount points plus closing costs. The average 15-year fixed rate mortgage rate moved to 2.73%, also with 0.6 discount points and closing costs. Both rates are at all-time lows.

This week, mortgage rates have a lot of data on which to trade, and may be poised to bounce higher. 

In addition to the release of manufacturing, construction and retail sales reports, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will post its September Non-Farm Payrolls report Friday. More commonly called the “jobs report”, the monthly release takes on added significance now that the Federal Reserve has said that its open-ended QE3 program will be linked to the U.S. jobs economy.

Wall Street expects to see 120,000 net new jobs created in September. If the actual reading exceeds this figure, mortgage rates should rise.

October 1, 2012 Posted by | Mortgage Rates | , , | Leave a comment

Pending Home Sales Index Continues To Show Strength

Pending Home Sales Index 2009-2012

Nationwide, homes continue to sell briskly.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, the Pending Home Sales Index read 99.2 for August — the fourth straight month in which the index hovered near its benchmark value of 100.

A “pending home” is a home that is under contract to sell, but has not yet closed. The index measures with fair accuracy the future strength of the U.S. housing market.

For today’s Phoenix home buyers, the August Pending Home Sales Index is relevant for several reasons.

First, the index remains near its highest point since April 2010, the last month of that year’s federal home buyer tax credit. This implies that the current housing market is performing nearly as well as the “stimulated” market of two years ago — except without the accompanying federal stimulus.

The housing market is standing on its own, in other words.

Second, the Pending Home Sales Index suggests that today’s housing market is among the strongest of the last decade. We can make this inference because the Pending Home Sales Index is a relative index, benchmarked to the value of “100” which represents the housing market as it behaved in 2001.

2001 was strong year in housing. With today’s Pending Home Sales Index remaining near 100, it tells us that 2012 is similarly strong.

And, third, the Pending Home Sales Index is relevant because it’s a forward-looking housing metric — one of the few that are regularly published. As compared to the Case-Shiller Index or Existing Home Sales report which both report on how housing fared in the past, the Pending Home Sales Index projects 30-60 days to the future.

Based on August data, therefore, we can expect for home sales volume to remain high as 2012 comes to a close.

If you’re currently shopping for a home, you’ve likely noticed a change in the market. Multiple-offer situations are more common and sellers are regaining negotiation leverage. The longer you wait to buy, therefore, the more you may pay for a home.

Read the complete Pending Home Sales Report on the NAR website

September 28, 2012 Posted by | Housing Analysis | , , | Leave a comment

New Home Supply Remains Firmly In “Seller’s Market” Territory

New Home Supply chartThe market for new construction homes remains strong nationwide.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of new homes sold slipped 0.3 percent in August 2012 to a seasonally-adjusted, annualized 373,000 units sold — just 1,000 units less than July 2012 and the second-highest reading since April 2010.

April 2010 was the last month of that year’s tax credit which granted home buyers up to $8,000 off of their federal tax bill.

As compared to one year ago, sales of new homes are higher by 28%.

Furthermore, during the same time frame, the median sale price of a new home moved higher by 17 percent. The rising prices, in part, are the result of a shrinking national new home inventory. 

When August ended, there were just 141,000 homes for sale nationwide — a 12% drop from the year prior. This suggests that home builders have stopped building without buyers; that some lessons were learned in last decade’s homebuilding frenzy.

At today’s pace of home sales, the entire stock of new homes nationwide would sell out in 4.5 months. As a comparison point, in January 2009, the new home supply reached 12.1 months.

With home supply below 6.0 months, analysts say, it signifies a “seller’s market” and home supplies have not been north of 6.0 months since October 2011. And, based on recent homebuilder confidence surveys, supply doesn’t appear headed back over 6.0 months anytime soon.

Builders in Arizona and nationwide report that prospective buyer foot traffic is at its highest point in 6 years. Low mortgage rates and affordable housing choices have held demand for new homes strong. Rising rents contribute, too.

For today’s home buyers of new construction, then, shrinking supply amid rising demand portends higher home prices into 2013 and beyond. If you’re a buyer of new construction, therefore, think about moving up your time frame. 

The best deals left in housing may be the ones you grab while the calendar still reads 2012. By January, low prices may be gone, and low rates may be, too.

September 27, 2012 Posted by | Housing Analysis | , , | Leave a comment

Home Price Index Shows Values Rising 3.7% From One Year Ago

Home Price Index from peak to presentTuesday, the Federal Home Finance Agency’s Home Price Index (HPI) showed home values rising 0.2% on a seasonally-adjusted basis between June and July 2012, and moving +3.7% on an annual basis.

Home values have not dropped month-to-month since January of this year — a span of 6 months.

For today’s home buyers and sellers throughout Phoenix , though, it’s important to recognize on what the HPI is actually reporting.

Or, stated differently, on what the HPI is not reporting. The Home Price Index is based on home price changes of some homes, of certain “types”, with specific mortgage financing only.

As such, it excludes a lot of home sales from its results which skews the final product. We don’t know if home values are really up 0.2% this month — we only know that’s true for the home that the HPI chooses to track.

As an example of how certain homes are excluded, because the HPI is published by the Federal Housing Finance Agency and because the FHFA gets its access to home price data from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, it’s upon data these two entities upon which the Home Price Index is built.

Home price data from the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), from local credit unions, and from all-cash sales, for example, are excluded from the HPI because the FHFA has no awareness that the transaction ever happened.

In 2006, this may not have been a big deal; the FHA insured just 4 percent of the housing market at the time. Today, however, the FHA is estimated to insure more than 20% of new home purchases. Furthermore, in August, more than 1 in 4 sales were made with cash.

None of these home sales were included in the HPI.

Furthermore, the Home Price Index excludes certain home types from its findings.

Home sales of condominiums, cooperatives, multi-unit homes and planned unit developments (PUD) are not used in the calculation of the HPI. In some cities, including Chicago and New York City, these property types represent a large percentage of the overall market. The HPI ignores them.

Like other home-value trackers, the Home Price Index can well highlight the housing market’s broader, national trends but for specific home price data about a specific home or a ZIP code, it’s better to talk with a real estate agent with local market knowledge.

Since peaking in April 2007, the Home Price Index is off 16.4 percent.

September 26, 2012 Posted by | Housing Analysis | , , | Leave a comment

Existing Home Sales Leap To 2-Year High

Existing Home Sales By Price Tier, August 2012

The home resale market put forth another strong data set last week. Home sales prices are higher nationwide and sales volume has moved to a 2-year high.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, 4.82 million “existing homes” sold on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis in August, representing a near 8 percent improvement from the month prior and a nine percent jump from August 2011.

An existing home is a home which has been previously occupied.

Home sales were unevenly split across price tiers, with more than half of all homes selling for less than $250,000. This suggests that the first-time home buyers and real estate investors continue to be active in today’s market as a foundation for growth is built.

According to the Existing Home Sales data :

  • First-time buyers accounted for 31% of all home sales
  • Real estate investors accounted for 18% of all home sales
  • Other, repeat buyers accounted for 51% of all home sales

Also noteworthy is that “distressed homes” accounted for the smallest percentage of overall home sales since the real estate trade group starting tracking such data.

In August, homes in various stages of foreclosures accounted for 12% of all sales and sold at an average discount of 19 percent below market value. Short sale homes accounted for 10% of all sales and sold at an average discount of 13 percent below market value.

Of all the data in the August Existing Home Sales report, though, perhaps most relevant to today’s buyers is the shrinking national housing supply.

At August’s end, there were 2.47 million homes listed for sale nationwide, a three percent increase from the month prior. However, because the pool of available home buyers is increasing more rapidly than the number of homes for sale, housing supplies fell 0.3 months to 6.1 months.

This means that at the current pace of sales, the entire housing supply would be sold by March 2013.

For today’s home buyers, home affordability appears poised to worsen. Mortgage rates and home prices remain low today, but market conditions like these rarely last long. Talk to your real estate agent about what options you have ahead of you. 2012 is coming to a close.

By 2013, the housing recovery may be fully underway. 

September 25, 2012 Posted by | Housing Analysis | , , | Leave a comment

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : September 24, 2012

Existing Home Sales Mortgage markets improved for the second consecutive week last week as demand for U.S. mortgage-backed bonds remained high. A series of economic reports showed strength in housing and a stability in jobs.

Wall Street looked past it, however, to send mortgage rates to their lowest levels in history.

One week into the Federal Reserve’s newest bond-buying program, the stimulus appears to be working.

According to Freddie Mac, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate slipped to 3.49% last week for borrowers willing to pay an accompanying 0.6 discount points at the time of closing. Discount points are a one-time closing costs where 1 discount point is equal to one percent of your loan size.

3.49% marks a new all-time low for the 30-year fixed rate mortgage. 

The 15-year fixed rate mortgage rate fell to a new all-time low last week, too, dropping to 2.77% with the same accompanying 0.6 discount points.

Mortgage rates in Arizona fell despite strong housing data.

  • Housing Starts rose 5.5% to a 2-year high
  • Existing Home Sales rose 7.8% to a 2-year high
  • Building Permits rose 0.2%

Notably, according to the National Association of REALTORS®, the national existing home supply slipped to 6.1 months last month — very close to the 6.0-month marker which separates a “buyer’s market” from a “seller’s market”.

If supplies continue lower, home prices may rise more quickly than expected into 2013. Median home sale prices are already 9.5% higher as compared to one year ago.

This week, more housing data is set for release including the home value-tracking Case-Shiller Index and FHFA Home Price Index. Both are expected to show rising home prices as compared to the last recorded month, and one year ago. In addition, the National Association of REALTORS® releases its Pending Home Sales Index.

Lastly, and likely most important to mortgage rates and home affordability in Phoenix , the government releases its Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) report Friday. PCE is the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge. An unexpected increase is expected to move mortgage rates higher.

September 24, 2012 Posted by | Mortgage Rates | , , | Leave a comment

30-Year Fixed Rate Mortgage Drops To 3.49% — An All-Time Low

Freddie Mac mortgage rates

For the first time in 9 weeks, mortgage rates have made new lows.

According to Freddie Mac’s weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate fell 6 basis points to 3.49% this week, tying the all-time low set in late-July. The 15-year fixed rate mortgage also dropped, moving to 2.77%. This, too, marks an all-time low.

The Federal Reserve’s plan to pressure mortgage rates down may be working.

However, depending on where you live, your access to these all-time rates may be limited. This is because the Freddie Mac “published rate” is a national average based on the government-backed group’s survey of more 125 banks.

Mortgage rates can vary by region.

For example, this week, mortgage applicants in the West Region are most likely to get the lowest rates of anyone.

In the West Region, 30-year fixed rate mortgage rates are averaging 3.43 percent with an accompanying 0.6 discount points. By contrast, applicants in the Southeast Region are most likely to get the highest rates with the 30-year fixed rate mortgage is averaging 3.53% with an accompanying 0.7 discount points.

1 discount point is a fee equal to one percent of your loan size. Loans with more accompanying discount points pay higher total closing costs.

This week’s record-low rates are a boon to home affordability and, as compared to last September, mortgage rates are much improved :

  • September 2011 : Average rate of 4.09%
  • September 2012 : Average rate of 3.49% 

Over the past 12 months, this 60-basis point mortgage rate improvement has increased the maximum purchase price of a Phoenix home buyer by roughly 7%. Home prices, however, may soon catch up.

Earlier this week, the Census Bureau reported Housing Starts at a multi-year high and the Existing Home Sales report from the National Association of REALTORS® showed the same. Housing is in recovery and prices are on an upward trajectory.

Take advantage of low mortgage rates while they last. Talk to your loan officer today.

September 21, 2012 Posted by | Mortgage Rates | , , | Leave a comment

Housing Starts Move To 2-Year High

Housing Starts chartThe new construction housing market continues to make gains.

Wednesday, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Housing Starts for single-family homes up 5.5 percent in August to a seasonally-adjusted, annualized count of 535,000 units nationwide.

The report marks the fifth month of six that single-family starts increased, and marks the highest starts tally since April 2010 — the last month of that year’s federal homebuyer tax credit program.

A “housing start” is a new home on which construction has started and the steady growth in single-family starts suggests a stronger Arizona housing market into 2013.

All four U.S. regions showed single-family housing start growth on both a monthly basis and on an annual one :

  • Northeast Region : 4.5% monthly growth; 31.4% annual growth
  • Midwest Region : 15.6% monthly growth; 74.5% annual growth
  • South Region : 3.2% monthly growth; 17.2% annual growth
  • Midwest Region : 4.6% monthly growth; 23.9% annual growth

The data is just the latest in a series of signals that today’s Phoenix new construction housing market has put its worst days behind it.

The nation’s home builders appear to agree, as well.

Earlier this week, the National Association of Homebuilders released its Housing Market Index, a monthly metric which measures homebuilder confidence in the new construction market.

The homebuilder trade association put the HMI at 40 — a 6-year high. Builders expect a strong finish to 2012 and for momentum to carry into 2013 and beyond.

The new construction market — like most of housing — has been fueled by a combination of the lowest mortgage rates in history, ample access to low- and no-downpayment mortgages, and an ever-shrinking supply of new homes for sale.

In July there were just 142,000 new homes for sale nationwide, down 14% from the year prior. As supply shrinks, all things equal, new home prices rise.

If you’ve been considering new construction, therefore, talk to builders sooner rather than later. As demand for homes heats up, prices are likely to rise.

September 20, 2012 Posted by | Housing Analysis | , , | Leave a comment

Homebuilder Confidence Rises Again; Tops 40

HMI September 2010 - 2012Home builder confidence continues to make new highs. 

As reported by the National Association of Home Builders, the Housing Market Index, a measure of builder confidence, rose to a reading of 40 in September — its highest mark since June 2006.

The index is now higher through five straight months and 11 of the last 12.

For home buyers in Scottsdale , the survey may be signaling higher new home prices ahead; when builders are more confident in housing, they’re may be less likely to make concessions in price, and to “sweeten” deals with free upgrades and/or subsidized mortgage rates.

The Housing Market Index is published monthly, based on responses to a 3-question survey that the NAHB sends to its members. The questions cover three distinct parts of a builder’s business, each requiring a simple, one-word answer.

Builders are asked to respond with “Good”, “Fair” or “Poor”; or, “High”, “Average”, “Low” to the following three comments :

  • Rate market conditions for the sale of new homes today
  • Rate market conditions for the sale of new homes 6 months from today
  • Rate the foot traffic of prospective new home buyers

All three survey components showed an increase from August with buyer foot traffic rating at its highest point in more than 6 years. This is especially noteworthy because as the number of prospective buyers increases, so does competition for homes for sale.

There are currently just 142,000 new homes for sale nationwide, the stock of which will “sell out” in 4.6 months at the current pace of sales.

Not since October 2011 has the national home supply been above six months, the consensus dividing line between bull and bear market. Today’s new construction market favors builders and builders know it.

If you’re planning to buy new construction in Arizona later this year or into early-2013, consider moving up your time frame. Homes may be for sale, but they won’t likely be as inexpensive as they are today.

September 19, 2012 Posted by | Housing Analysis | , , | Leave a comment