After an unexpected spike in December, builder confidence in the market for newly-built, single-family homes fell a point to 56 in January, according to the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index. The index – derived from a monthly survey conducted for the past 25 years – scores builders’ perception of the current market on a scale where any number above 50 indicates more builders view conditions as good than poor. Rick Judson, NAHB’s chairman, said January’s results show that confidence is holding at a solid level. According to Judson, the fact that many markets are showing improvement bodes well for future sales of new homes. Still, all three index components suffered declines in January. The index gauging current sales fell one point to 62, while future sales dropped two and buyer traffic slipped three points. Regionally, the three-month moving averages found the Northeast and West both up four points. The South was unchanged at 56 and the Midwest fell a point to 58. NAHB chief economist David Crowe believes rising home prices, historically low mortgage rates, and significant pent-up demand will continue driving the recovery in the year ahead. More here.
According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, total mortgage loan application volume increased 11.9 percent last week due to a significant drop in the average mortgage rate. The Refinance Index was up 11 percent and the seasonally adjusted Purchase Index rose 12 percent. The previous week’s results included an adjustment for the New Year’s. Michael Fratantoni, MBA’s chief economist, said the drop in rates triggered a pickup in refinance volume, while the change in purchase activity most likely reflects an increase following the holiday season. Still, the gain in purchase demand was more than anticipated and may indicate a strong selling season this coming spring and summer. The MBA’s survey covers more than 75 percent of all U.S. retail residential mortgage applications and has been conducted weekly since 1990. More here.
Home prices surged last year but, according to Trulia’s Price Monitor, the increases were a reaction to the housing crash more than the effects of an improved job market and economy. A recent analysis from Jed Kolko, Trulia’s chief economist, explains how the price gains seen throughout 2013 were a direct response to the housing crash. For example, the individual markets that experienced the highest price increases last year were also those that suffered the most severe price declines during the crash. In other words, the markets that had the most ground to make up were the ones with the most significant increases. Now that most areas have largely recovered the losses suffered during the housing crash, price gains should begin to slow. Kolko says – as the housing market continues to recover – factors such as job growth, rather than this recent rebound effect, will lead to more sustainable, and slower, price increases. Trulia’s Price and Rent Monitors measure how asking prices and rents are trending on both a national and local level. In December, home prices were up 11.9 percent over last year and 0.4 percent above the month before. More here.
The number of Americans who have a positive perception of the current housing market has improved significantly from a year earlier, according to Fannie Mae’s December National Housing Survey. The year-over-year gains reflect an increasingly strong recovery, despite a dip in sentiment during the fall. For example, the percentage of respondents who feel it’s a good time to sell a house rose from 21 percent to 33 percent over the last year. The percentage of participants who said they felt it would be easy to obtain a home mortgage also increased over the past 12 months, from 45 percent last year to 50 percent in the most recent survey. Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae, said consumer attitudes about the ease of getting a mortgage today are at their highest level in the survey’s three-and-a-half-year history. According to Duncan, that improvement should help offset the effects of higher mortgage rates and support a continued but measured housing recovery as we move through 2014. Also, the number of Americans who believe now is a good time to buy a home jumped to 67 percent and the percentage of respondents who feel their personal financial situation will get better in the next year was up four points to 42 percent. More here.
According to a monthly survey of Realtors, market conditions are still good, though not as strong as before. The survey – which measures confidence in the current market and expectations for the future – provides monthly information about buyer/seller traffic, price trends, buyer profiles, and issues affecting the real-estate market. Despite little change in overall perception from October to November, Realtor confidence in the market for single-family homes over the next six months jumped four points, rising to 64 from 60 in October. The survey is scored so that any number above 50 indicates moderate market conditions. According to respondents, buyer traffic slowed in late autumn but is expected to pick up now that the holidays are over and the spring-selling season is only a few months away. Also in the report, a seasonal slowdown in home prices combined with steady mortgage rates and rising incomes has lead to a slight boost in affordability, though the overall trend remains down. More here.
Industry experts and market analysts expect housing to continue to build on last year’s gains in 2014. Home prices – which rose 11 percent last year – will continue to rise, though at a slower rate. And those price increases will lead to fewer underwater homeowners and, as more homes are put up for sale, improved inventory levels. In addition to rising home values, analysts expect higher mortgage rates in the new year, though they believe it’ll have little effect on buyer demand, which is expected to remain at a healthy level. Celia Chen, an economist at Moody’s Analytics, predicts job growth will spur a surge in new residential construction this year. Chen believes the economy will add about 200,000 jobs a month, leading to greater housing demand and increased homebuilding activity. The spike in new residential construction will lead to even more jobs and support a stronger, growing economy in 2014, according to Chen. More here.
The National Association of Realtors’ Pending Home Sales Index increased slightly in November, due to gains in the South and West. The index – which measures contract signings but not closings – was up 2.3 percent in the South and 1.8 percent in the West. The regional improvement offset declines in the Midwest and Northeast. Overall, the index rose 0.2 percent from October. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said the market is flattening. According to Yun, job creation and household formation should lead to a fairly stable level of sales activity in 2014. And, though the final months of 2013 finished on a soft note, the year as a whole ended with the best sales total in seven years. In fact, existing-home sales are expected to total 5.1 million for 2013, which is a 10 percent improvement over 2012. Also in the report, the national median existing-home price for all of this year will be close to $197,300. That’s a 12 percent increase from 2012. More here.
Currently, about 13 percent of all homes with a mortgage — or 6.4 million — remain in negative equity compared to 14.7 percent — or 7.2 million — at the end of the second quarter.
An estimated 42.6 million homes in the U.S. have positive equity. About 20 percent– or 10 million — of those homes, however, have less than 20 percent of equity or what is considered “under-equitied,” according to CoreLogic.
What’s more, about 1.5 million properties have less than 5 percent and are considered near-negative equity. They are the most at risk if prices happen to fall, CoreLogic reports.
The following states have the highest levels of negative equity and account for 36.4 percent of all the negative equity in the country:
- Nevada: 32.2% of properties have negative equity
- Florida: 28.8%
- Arizona: 22.5%
- Ohio: 18%
- Georgia: 17.8%
The majority of the homes that have positive equity are in the high-end housing market. Ninety-two percent of homes valued at more than $200,000 have equity compared to 82 percent of homes values at less than $200,000, CoreLogic found.
“We should see a further rebound in consumer confidence and economic growth in 2014 as more homeowners escape the negative equity trap,” says Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “Home price appreciation has helped more than 3 million property owners regain equity since the first quarter of 2013.”