New numbers from the National Association of Realtors show contracts to buy homes were 1.1 percent higher in May than the month before. Improvement was seen in three of the four major regions, with only the West seeing a slight decline. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, says favorable mortgage rates have motivated home buyers. “Buyers, for good reason, are anxious to purchase and lock in at these rates,” Yun said. “The Federal Reserve may cut interest rates one more time this year, but there is no guarantee mortgage rates will fall from these already historically low points. Job creation and a rise in inventory will nonetheless drive more buyers to enter the market.” In short, many of the factors that help affordability and benefit buyers have improved this year, including mortgage rates, home prices, and the job market. Inventory remains the market’s main challenge but, as more homes become available for sale, buyers should see further home price moderation, less competition, and more choices.
According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates fell last week across all loan categories, including 30-year fixed-rate loans with both conforming and jumbo balances, loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, and 15-year fixed-rate loans. The drop brought the 30-year fixed-rate to its lowest level since September 2017 and continues its overall trend downward. So far this year, mortgage rates have been decreasing and its helped boost demand for loans to buy homes – which are now 9 percent higher than at the same time last year. Joel Kan, MBA’s associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting, says demand remains strong despite the market’s remaining challenges. “Now at almost the half-way mark of 2019, we have generally seen a stronger purchase market than last year, despite still-tight existing inventory and insufficient new construction,” Kan said. But with rates down three of the past four weeks, affordability conditions have improved and helped keep home buyers interested, regardless of the inventory issues still plaguing many markets.
In order to gauge how affordable it is for you to buy a home, you have to factor in a number of different variables. How much money you’ve saved and how much you earn are part of the equation, as are current mortgage rates. But home prices may be the most important factor. Home prices are an easy-to-understand indicator of where things are headed in the housing market and how it might affect your buying options. So what do home prices look like today? Well, one way to get an accurate read of where prices are is to check the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Indices. Considered the leading measure of U.S. home prices, the index has been tracking home values for more than 27 years. According to their latest release, the news is good for prospective buyers. That’s because, while home prices are still increasing, they’re moving higher at a slower and slower pace. Philip Murphy, managing director and global head of index governance at S&P Dow Jones Indices, says the trend is pretty consistent. “Home price gains continued in a trend of broad-based moderation,” Murphy said. “Year-over-year price gains remain positive in most cities, though at diminishing rates of change.” In other words, home price increases are becoming smaller and, as long as mortgage rates remain low, summer home buyers should find affordability conditions favorable. More here.
Part of shopping for a house to buy is calculating whether or not you’ll be able to comfortably afford the monthly mortgage payment. Nobody wants to buy a house that causes them financial stress. So figuring out your approximate payment and how that fits into your monthly budget is key to choosing a house that’s right for you. Of course, having a steady job and a consistent income will help make your mortgage payment easier to manage. Which is why the improved job market is among the reasons credited for new numbers showing mortgage delinquencies at record lows. According to the data, late mortgage payments have fallen to a nearly 20-year low. Just in the past year, they’re down 7.5 percent and, combined with foreclosure starts falling to a more than 18-year low, the improvement represents a major turnaround from where things were following the financial crisis and housing crash. But it isn’t really that surprising. After all, the labor market has been stronger in recent years. And with increased job security and growing wages, more homeowners have been able to avoid financial stress and stay on top of their payments. More here.
Sales of previously owned, single-family homes increased 2.5 percent in May, according to new numbers from the National Association of Realtors. The gains follow two months of declines and are evidence that home buyers are responding to improved affordability conditions. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, says, purchase power is up. “The purchasing power to buy a home has been bolstered by falling mortgage rates, and buyers are responding,” he said. But though favorable buying conditions are good for potential house hunters, increasing demand comes with its own set of challenges. For example, the typical property was on the market just 26 days in May. Additionally, 53 percent of homes sold were on the market for less than a month. In other words, good homes are selling fast. That means, home buyers looking for a house this summer need to prepare for competition. Before heading out to look at houses, buyers should make sure their finances are in order, they’re prequalified to borrow, and that they’re ready to make an offer when they find a house that fits their life and budget.
The number of homes for sale is lower than normal in many markets. So, any indication that relief may be on the way is good news for potential home buyers. That’s why the results of a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors are encouraging. The survey found a significant increase in the number of respondents who said they believe now is a good time to sell a home. In fact, 46 percent of participants said they thought so – up from 37 percent in the first quarter. What’s driving the boost in optimism? Well, according to Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, home price increases have slowed and it might be motivating homeowners. “With home price appreciation slowing, home sellers understand that the days of large price gains from holding an extra year are over,” Yun said. In other words, homeowners who may’ve been waiting to see how much higher home prices would climb may now be ready to sell. If more Americans put their homes up for sale, it will help to relieve inventory shortages and lead to a better balanced housing market. More here.
According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates increased last week following six consecutive weeks of declines. And, while the increase was slight, it was enough to cause a drop in overall mortgage application demand. Joel Kan, MBA’s vice president of economic and industry forecasting, said refinance activity was particularly affected. “After seeing a six-week streak, mortgage rates for 30-year loans increased slightly, which led to a pullback in overall refinance activity,” Kan said. But though week-over-week demand was down, it remains up from one year ago. In fact, applications for loans to buy homes are now four percent higher than they were at the same time last year. Kan says younger buyers are driving the improvement, noting that “strong demand from first-time buyers and low unemployment continue to push this year’s purchase activity above a year ago.” Conducted since 1990, the MBA’s weekly survey covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.
Obviously, there’s a link between the economy and housing market. When the economy isn’t doing well, it tends to affect people’s money and confidence. And, if people aren’t feeling financially secure, that can lead them to put off making a major purchase like buying a home. After all, no one wants to buy a home right before the economy tanks and prices crash. But, according to the most recent outlook from Fannie Mae’s Economic and Strategic Research Group, there are also times when that link isn’t as direct. For example, the group – who’s monthly forecast covers both the economy and housing market – says softening global economic conditions will lead to slower economic growth this year and in 2020. But though they believe the economy will slow, they are more positive when it comes to the housing market. “We expect housing to add to growth for the foreseeable future, and our projection of a 1.0 percent year-over-year increase in home sales in 2019 remains unchanged,” Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s chief economist said. “Moderating home price appreciation and attractive mortgage rates continue to support affordability, particularly as home builders are now paying more attention to the entry-level portion of the housing market.” More here.
The National Association of Home Builders’ Housing Market Index is a monthly measure of interest in the new home market. The survey asks builders for their view of current conditions and is considered an important indicator, since home builders have an unique perspective on things like buyer demand and foot traffic. According to the most recent survey, home builders remain solidly optimistic about demand for new single-family homes, though there are a number of lingering concerns. Robert Dietz, NAHB’s chief economist, says the market’s current challenges are particularly daunting for first-time and entry-level buyers. “Despite lower mortgage rates, home prices remain somewhat high relative to incomes, which is particularly challenging for entry-level buyers” Dietz said. “And while new home sales picked up in March and April, builders continue to grapple with excessive regulations, a shortage of lots and lack of skilled labor that are hurting affordability and depressing supply.” Still, despite these challenges, regional results show, over the past three months, only the South has seen a drop in confidence, while the Northeast, Midwest, and West have all made gains or remained steady. More here.
Naturally, when there are more home buyers than homes for sale, prices and competition increase. That’s why, the fact that there are a lower than normal number of homes for sale ranks high among the main issues affecting today’s home buyer. But what are the factors causing for-sale inventory to lag in markets across the country? Well, one of them is that an increasing number of homeowners have decided that, rather than moving, they’d prefer to renovate or remodel the home they have. In fact, according to Harvard’s Joint Center For Housing Studies, home improvement spending is up. Since 2015, it’s risen 10 percent. And when compared to 2010, it’s up 50 percent. According to the report, older homeowners are driving the trend. “Homeowners age 55 and over have dominated the home remodeling market for nearly a decade, overtaking middle-aged owners as the primary source of home improvement spending,” the report says. “Older homeowners are living longer and are increasingly willing and able to spend for home improvements that allow them to remain safely in their current homes.” More here.