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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

Coming Next Week : New, Mandatory Loan Fees For All Conforming Mortgages

New g-fees threaten low mortgage ratesBeginning as soon as next week, new, mandatory mortgage fees will push mortgage rates higher throughout Phoenix and nationwide. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are raising their respective “guarantee fees”.

Guarantee fees are fees that mortgage-backed securities providers charge to lenders for mortgage-related services including the bundling, selling and reporting of mortgage-backed bonds. 

Guarantee fees are also used to insure providers against credit-related losses.

As announced by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, effective for all conforming loans delivered to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, beginning November 1, 2012, guarantee fees will be raised by an average of 10 basis points per loan.

Conforming mortgages already average close to 30 basis points in guarantee fee per loan.

This is the second time this year that the FHFA has raised guarantee fees, with the most recent increase translating into an approximate 50-basis point worsening in consumer mortgage pricing. That today’s home buyers and refinancing households will soon pay higher loan closing costs as a result.

To use a real-life example, Freddie Mac reported that the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.55% nationwide this week for borrowers willing to pay an accompanying 0.7 discount points. 

Once the new g-fee is implemented, the discount points change : 

  • Prior to guarantee fee increase : 3.55% with 0.7 discount points
  • Post guarantee fee increase : 3.55% with 1.2 discount points

Post-increase, in other words, an identical Freddie Mac loan requires an extra half-point to get to closing, or $500 in additional closing costs per $100,000 borrowed.

These fees will soon appear on rate sheets, if they haven’t already.

Lenders know that it can take up to 60 days to lock a loan, approve it, fund it, then package it for delivery. Loans locked today, therefore, will likely be delivered to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac after the November 1, 2012 deadline. As a result, mortgage pricing will soon include the effects of the g-fees.

Perhaps as soon as this morning.

September 7, 2012 Posted by | The Economy | , , | Leave a comment

Government : Home Prices Up 3.0% In Last 12 Months Nationwide

Home Price Index, monthly since April 2007

The housing market recovery appears to be sustainable.

According to the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s Home Price Index, home prices rose by a seasonally-adjusted 0.7 percent between May and June 2012. The index is now up 3.0% over the past 12 months, and made its biggest quarterly gain since 2005 last quarter.

The FHFA’s Home Price Index measures home price changes through successive home sales for homes whose mortgages are backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, and for which the property type is categorized as a “single-family residence”. 

Condominiums, multi-unit homes and homes with jumbo mortgages, for example, are excluded from the Home Price Index, as are all-cash home sales.

June’s HPI gives buyers and seller in Phoenix reason to cheer, but it’s important to remember that the Home Price Index — like so many other home valuation trackers — has a severe, built-in flaw. The HPI uses aged data. It’s nearly September, yet we’re talking numbers from June.

Data that’s two months old has limited meaning in today’s housing market. It’s reflective of the housing market as it looked in the past.

And, even then, to categorize the HPI as “two months old” may be a stretch. Because it often takes 45-60 days to close on a home sale, the home sale prices as reported by the July Home Price Index are the result of purchase contracts written from as far back as February 2012.

Buyers and sellers in search of real-time home price data, in other words, won’t get it from the FHFA.

The Home Price Index is a useful housing market gauge for law-makers and economists. It highlights long-term trends in housing which can assist in allocating resources to a particular policy or project. For home buyers and sellers throughout Arizona , however, it’s decidedly less useful. Real-time data is what’s most important.

For that, talk to a real estate professional.

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

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 Scottsdale 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, talk with a real estate agent.

August 1, 2012 Posted by | Housing Analysis | , , | Leave a comment

Home Values Rise 0.8% In May 2012

Home Price Index from peakThe housing market’s bottom is 9 months behind us. Home values continue to climb nationwide.

According to the Federal Home Finance Agency’s Home Price Index, home values rose 0.8% in May on a monthly, seasonally-adjusted basis. May’s reading marks the sixth time in seven months that home values rose.

Values are now higher by 4 percent since the market’s October 2011 bottom.

As a Phoenix home buyer or seller, though, it’s important to understand what the Home Price Index measures. Or, more specifically, what the Home Price Index doesn’t measure.

Although widely-cited, the HPI remains widely-flawed, too. It should not be your sole source for real estate data.

As one example of how the Home Price Index is flawed, consider that the HPI only tracks the values of homes with an associated Fannie Mae- or Freddie Mac-backed mortgages. Homes with mortgages insured by the FHA are excluded, as are homes paid for with cash.

5 years ago, this wasn’t a big deal; the FHA insured just 4 percent of the housing market and cash sales were relatively small. Today, though, the FHA is estimated to insure more than 30% of new purchases and cash sales topped 17 percent in May 2012.

That’s a sizable subset of the U.S. housing market.

A second flaw in the Home Price Index is that it tracks home resales only and ignores new home sales. New home sales represent roughly 10% of the today’s housing market, so that’s a second sizable subset excluded from the HPI.

And, lastly, we can’t forget that the Home Price Index is on a 60-day publishing delay.

It’s nearly August, yet we’re only now receiving home valuation data from May. A lot can change in the housing market in 60 days, and it often does. The HPI is not reporting on today’s market conditions, in other words — it’s reporting on conditions as they existed two months ago. Information like that is of little use to today’s buyers and sellers in Sonoran Foothills.

For local, up-to-the-minute housing market data, skip the national data. Talk with a local real estate agent instead.

Since peaking in April 2007, the FHFA’s Home Price Index is off 16.0 percent.

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

FHFA : Home Values Up 3% Since Last Year

HPI from April 2007 peak

The Federal Home Finance Agency’s Home Price Index shows home values up 0.8% in April on a monthly, seasonally-adjusted basis.

April marks the third consecutive month during which home values increased and the index is now up 3 percent from last year at this time.

As a home buyer in Phoenix , it’s easy to look at the Home Price Index and believe that its recent, sustained climb is proof of a broader housing market recovery. Ultimately, that may prove true. However, we cannot base our buy-or-sell decisions on the HPI because, like the private-sector Case-Shiller Index, the Home Price Index is flawed.

There are three main flaws in the FHFA’s Home Price Index. They cannot be ignored.

First, the FHFA Home Price Index’s sample set is limited to homes with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. By definition, therefore, the index excludes homes with mortgages insured by the FHA.

5 years ago, this wasn’t such an issue because the FHA insured just 4 percent of mortgage. Today, however, the FHA’s market share is estimated to exceed 30 percent.  This means this the HPI excludes more than 30% of U.S. homes from its calculations right from the start.

The index also excludes homes backed by the VA; jumbo mortgages not securitized through the government; and, portfolio loans held by individual banks.

Second, the FHFA Home Price Index is based on the change in price of a home on consecutive home sales. Therefore, it’s sample set cannot include sales of new home sales, nor can it account for purchases made with cash because cash purchases require no mortgage.

Cash purchases were 29% of the home resale market in April.

Third, the Home Price Index is on a 60-day delay.

The report that home values are up 0.8% accounts for homes that closed two months ago, and with contracts from 30-75 days prior to that. In other words, the Home Price Index is measuring housing market activity from as far back as January. 

Reports such as the Home Price Index are helpful in spotting long-term trends in housing but data from January is of little help to today’s Arizona home buyers and sellers. It’s real-time data that matters most and the best place to get real-time housing market data isn’t from a national home valuation report — it’s from a local real estate agent.

June 29, 2012 Posted by | Housing Analysis | , , | Leave a comment