NAHB: Builder Confidence Dips on Hurricane Damage

Home builders had less confidence in housing market conditions in September. In the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, builders worried that ongoing shortages of construction labor and materials would worsen.  NAHB Chairman Granger MacDonald said that concerns over labor and building materials were “intensified,” but said that builder confidence was expected to return to high readings once rebuilding is underway.

The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index dropped three points to an index reading of 64 with all three component readings lower than they were in August. Builder confidence in current market conditions for new single-family homes dipped for points to an index reading of 70. Builder confidence in housing market conditions over the next six months also dropped points to 74. September’s reading for buyer traffic in new housing developments was one point lower at 47.

Construction Labor and Materials Shortages Expected to Worsen

Home builders have cited shortages of labor and building materials in recent years, but these shortages are expected to grow in coming months due to massive amounts of construction workers needed for rebuilding after severe storm damage and flooding wiped out homes, businesses, and infrastructure. As with the high demand for homes caused by low inventories of homes for sale, labor and materials costs will likely rise as rebuilding begins

The NAHB Housing Market Index measures builder confidence on a scale of 0 to 100. Any reading over 50 indicates that more builders than fewer consider housing market conditions to be in positive territory. While September readings are well within positive territory, approaching winter weather and shortages may cause builder confidence in housing market conditions to decrease.

Regional Builder Confidence Readings Mixed

Three-month rolling average readings for four regions tracked by NAHB had missed results in September. The Northeast posted a one-point gain to 49; the Midwest posted a loss of three points for a reading of 63 and the Southern region posted a one-point loss for a reading of 66. The West posted a two-point gain for a reading of 77.

Future builder confidence readings depend on conditions as storm season continues and winter weather sets in.

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New Home Construction Seen As A Possible Solution To Pent Up Demand For Homes

New Home Construction Seen As A Possible Solution To Pent Up Demand For HomesBuilder confidence in markets for new homes fell three points in February to a reading of 58. January’s reading was revised upward to 61. Builders have repeatedly expressed concerns shortages of labor and lots for development, but continue to express confidence in future sales conditions.

David Crowe, National Association of Home Builder’s (NAHB) chief economist, said that builders are watching slowing economic trends, but also cited low mortgage rates, improving labor markets and pent-up demand for homes as factors for strong U.S. housing markets. The NAHB notes that any reading over 50 indicates that more builders were confident than those who were not.

HMI Components Readings

The three readings used to calculate the NAHB Housing Market Index (HMI) were also lower. The reading for current sales conditions fell by three points to 65; the reading for sales conditions over the next six months fell by one point to 65. Home builders were less confident in buyer traffic in new home developments; the February reading dropped by five points to 39. Although the buyer traffic gauge was its lowest in nine months, it hasn’t topped the benchmark of 50 since the peak of the housing bubble ten years ago.

Three month rolling averages for the four regions charted by NAHB also dropped. The Northeastern region was 2 points lower at 47; the Southern region also lost two points for a reading of 59. The Midwestern region lost one point for a reading of 57 and the Western region dropped three points for a reading of 72.

Building New Homes Seen as Solution to Pent Up Demand for Homes

Analysts responded to February’s HMI with mixed views. Some analysts said that buyer demand for homes would override concerns over building costs. This view makes sense in view of pent-up demand driving up home prices. At some point, affordability and buyers ability to qualify for mortgage loans are likely slow the rate of increasing home prices.

Less pent-up demand could also help first-time and moderate income buyers compete for homes as buyer demand eases. First-time and moderate income buyers are essential in driving home sales, as their purchases of pre-owned homes allow homeowners to buy larger homes or relocate.

Reports on Housing Starts and Building Permits scheduled this week will shed additional light on home builder activity.

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Highest Year-Over-Year Increase In Home Prices Since 2005

Highest Year-Over-Year Increase In Home Prices Since 2005Two major indicators of home price trends showed a slowing momentum for home prices in December. The S&P Case Shiller 10 and 20 city indices reported that of 20 cities tracked, home prices were lower in December than for November.

Case-Shiller’s seasonally adjusted month-to month reading showed that home prices rose by 0.8 percent as compared to 0.90 percent in November.

David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said that “Gains are slowing from month-to-month and the strongest part of home price recovery may be over.” He also noted that seasonally adjusted data was showing a loss of momentum for home prices.

December home prices posted a year-over-year gain of 13.40 percent, down from November’s year-over-year reading of 13.70 percent. December’s reading reflected the highest year-over-year increase in home prices since 2005.

Analysts note that a slower pace of increasing home prices may allow more buyers to enter the market, and may also encourage more buyers to list their properties for sale.

This would increase inventories of available homes and relieve pent-up demand for homes. Although home price growth is cooling off, average home prices remain 20 percent below their pre-recession peak in 2006.

Home Prices Face Challenges In 2014

Another factor in slower growth of home prices is regional differences in the rate of economic recovery. Cities including Dallas, Texas and Denver, Colorado recently set records for escalating home prices.

Five states including Florida and Michigan accounted for almost half of foreclosures completed during 2013. Slow job growth and poor winter weather were also blamed for slower gains in home prices.

New mortgage rules and relatively strict mortgage lending standards may continue to dampen housing markets, but there is some good news as some lenders are easing credit standards.

 FHFA: Home Prices Higher For 10th Consecutive Quarter

The Federal Housing Finance Administration reported similar trends in December home price data for properties either financed or owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Home prices rose by a seasonally adjusted rate of 0.80 percent in December as compared to November’s reading.

Home prices were 7.70 percent higher for the fourth quarter of 2013 than for the same period in 2012. Adjusted for inflation, this reading indicates an approximate year-over-year increase of 7 percent.

FHFA reported higher readings for 38 states in its fourth quarter 2013 Home Price Index, as compared with 48 states in in the third quarter of 2013.  In order of home price appreciation, the top five states with highest growth in home prices were Nevada, California, Arizona, Oregon and Florida.

These calculations were seasonally adjusted and based on home purchases only.

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Case Shiller Price Index Shows That It’s A Buyers Market

Case Shiller Price Index Shows That It's A Buyers MarketTwo major indicators of home price trends showed a slowing momentum for home prices in December. The S&P Case Shiller 10 and 20 city indices reported that of 20 cities tracked, home prices were lower in December than for November.

Case-Shiller’s seasonally adjusted month-to month reading showed that home prices rose by 0.8 percent as compared to 0.90 percent in November.

David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said that “Gains are slowing from month-to-month and the strongest part of home price recovery may be over.” He also noted that seasonally adjusted data was showing a loss of momentum for home prices.

December home prices posted a year-over-year gain of 13.40 percent, down from November’s year-over-year reading of 13.70 percent. December’s reading reflected the highest year-over-year increase in home prices since 2005.

Analysts note that a slower pace of increasing home prices may allow more buyers to enter the market, and may also encourage more buyers to list their properties for sale. This would increase inventories of available homes and relieve pent-up demand for homes.

Although home price growth is cooling off, average home prices remain 20 percent below their pre-recession peak in 2006.

Home Prices Face Challenges In 2014

Another factor in slower growth of home prices is regional differences in the rate of economic recovery. Cities including Dallas, Texas and Denver, Colorado recently set records for escalating home prices.

Five states including Florida and Michigan accounted for almost half of foreclosures completed during 2013. Slow job growth and poor winter weather were also blamed for slower gains in home prices.

New mortgage rules and relatively strict mortgage lending standards may continue to dampen housing markets, but there is some good news as some lenders are easing credit standards.

FHFA: Home Prices Higher For 10th Consecutive Quarter

The Federal Housing Finance Administration reported similar trends in December home price data for properties either financed or owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Home prices rose by a seasonally adjusted rate of 0.80 percent in December as compared to November’s reading. Home prices were 7.70 percent higher for the fourth quarter of 2013 than for the same period in 2012. Adjusted for inflation, this reading indicates an approximate year-over-year increase of 7 percent.

FHFA reported higher readings for 38 states in its fourth quarter 2013 Home Price Index, as compared with 48 states in in the third quarter of 2013.  

In order of home price appreciation, the top five states with highest growth in home prices were Nevada, California, Arizona, Oregon and Florida. These calculations were seasonally adjusted and based on home purchases only.

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Existing Home Sales Lowest Since 2012

Existing Home Sales Lowest Since 2012Sales of existing homes fell by 5.10 percent in January according to the National Association of REALTORS.

Pre-owned home sales slowed to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 4.62 million homes against an expected reading of 4.65 million and December’s reading of 4.87 million existing homes sold.

Rising home prices are reducing the number of affordable homes and a shrinking inventory of available homes were said to be underlying causes to January’s slump in existing home sales.

Severe winter weather also contributed to lower sales.

January’s reading was the lowest for existing home sales since July of 2012. The national inventory of available pre-owned homes was 1.90 million, which represents a 4.90 month supply at the current sales pace.

Real estate pros look for a 6 to 6.50 month supply of existing homes to balance demand and availability between buyers and homes for sale.

High demand against a low supply of available homes suggests that some home sales weren’t completed due to a bottleneck between willing buyers and a low supply of available homes. Rising home prices also limit affordability for first-time and moderate income home buyers.

Regional Sales Of Existing Homes Lower

Existing home sales fell across all four regions:

  • Northeast: -3.10 percent
  • Midwest: -7.1 percent
  • South: -3.5 percent
  • West: 7.3 percent

Slow job growth, new mortgage rules and high loan approval standards were also reported as causes for slower sales. Short supplies of existing homes in high demand locations are causing multiple offers on homes, and in some areas, cash offers are in play. High competition for homes can eliminate home buyers with a limited range of purchasing power.

Reports on new construction and home builder confidence in housing market conditions supported the slower rate of existing home sales in January

Home prices, while still increasing, are not growing at the rapid rates seen in 2013. The national median home price in January rose to $188,900, which represents a 10.70 percent increase year-over-year. Analysts said that existing home sales that weren’t completed due to the winter weather can be expected to recover as warmer weather arrives.

Distressed Home Sales Impact Average Home Price 

Distressed sales of existing homes including foreclosed properties and short sales represented 15 percent of January sales of existing homes, down from 24 percent in January 2013, and higher than December’s reading of 14 percent.

Sales of foreclosed homes averaged 16 percent below market value and short sales were completed at an average of 13 percent below market value. Discounted home prices impact home prices in areas that have larger numbers of distressed homes for sale.

As warmer weather approaches, new home construction will pick up and more homeowners will be likely to put their homes on the market.

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Case Shiller Price Index Shows Homeowners A Rise In Home Equity

Case Shiller Price Index Shows Homeowners A Rise In Home Equity According to the S&P/Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Home Price Indices released Tuesday, the U.S. Housing Market is on a roll based on year-over-year increases in average home values, but month-to-month results were mixed.

The 10 and 20-City Home Price Indices showed year-over-year growth of 13.80 and 13.70 percent respectively.

Highlights Include:

  • Dallas, Texas posted its highest rate of annual growth since 2000.
  • Chicago’s average home price rose by 11.00 percent, its highest annual gain since December 1988.
  • The 10 and 20-City Indices posted their best November home prices since 2005.

Top year-over-year gains in home prices included Las Vegas, Nevada at 27.30 percent, San Francisco, California at 23.20 percent, Los Angeles, California at 21.60 percent and San Diego, California at 18.70 percent. Atlanta, Georgia rounds out the top five cities with a year-over-year increase in home prices of 18.50 percent.

The annual readings for the S&P/Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Housing Market Indices in November suggests that U.S. markets are strong enough to sustain momentum in spite of rising mortgage rates. The month-to-month results show that both indices decreased by an incremental 0.10 percent in November, 2013.

Keeping in mind the traditional slump in home sales during the winter and holiday season, lower month-to-month readings were neither unexpected nor disappointing.

Eight of the nine top cities posting the highest month-to-month growth in home prices were located in the Sun Belt. San Diego, California and Minneapolis, Minnesota home prices remained nearly flat after decreasing in October.

Nine of the 20 cities surveyed posted positive month-to-month growth in home prices. Of the nine cities, only Boston, Massachusetts and Cleveland, Ohio were not located in the Sun Belt.

S&P/ Dow Jones Index Committee Chairman Expects Slower Growth In 2014

David Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, noted that November’s month-to-month readings for the 10 and 20-city home price indices indicated that Phoenix, Arizona, Los Angeles California and Las Vegas, Nevada had each posted 20 or more consecutive months of rising home prices.

While positive in his remarks about increasing home prices, Mr. Blitzer also noted that indicators suggested a slower rate of growth during 2014.

This aligns with previously released economic news citing uncertainty about mortgage rates that may continue to rise as the Federal Reserve continues tapering its monthly asset purchases under its quantitative easing program.

The Fed’s FOMC meeting is scheduled to end Wednesday, January 29, at which time the committee’s customary statement will indicate whether or not the Fed’s monthly asset purchases will be reduced from their current level of $75 billion.

On the positive side, Chairman Blitzer said that the low inflation rate (1.50 percent in 2013) and rising home prices are helping homeowners accumulate home equity at a faster pace.

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Existing Home Sales Reach Highest Level In 7 Years

Existing Home Sales Reach Highest Level In 7 YearsThe NAR provided great year-end news as existing home sales in December pushed 2013 sales of existing homes to a 7 year high. December’s reading of 4.86 sales of pre-owned homes came in at 4.87 million on a seasonally adjusted annual basis.

Although projections had been for 4.89 million sales, the December reading topped November’s revised sales of 4.82 million pre-owned homes.

December’s reading showed the first gain in existing home sales in three months. NAR reported that existing home sales for 2013 reached 5.09 million, which represented a 9.10 percent increase over 2012.

More Good News: Median Price Of Existing Homes Rises

NAR reported that the national median price for pre-owned homes increased to $198,000, a year-over-year increase of 9.90 percent. The average price of an existing home for all of 2013 was $197,100. This was the strongest growth in existing home prices since 2005 and represented an increase of 11.50 percent.

There were 1.86 million pre-owned homes for sale in December. At current sales rates, this represents a 4.60 month inventory. Real estate pros like to see a minimum of a six-month supply of available homes, so existing homes remain in short supply.

Analysts attributed rising home prices to improving economic conditions and a persistent shortage of homes for sale.

FHFA: Slower Gain for Home Prices In November

FHFA, the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reported that November prices of homes financed with mortgages owned or guaranteed by the two agencies rose by a seasonally adjusted 0.10 percent as compared to October’s increase of 0.50 percent and an expected growth rate of 0.40 percent.

November’s reading brought year-over-year home sales to an increase of 7.60 percent, but is still 8.90 percent below their April 2007 peak.

Analysts noted that recent reports of increasing new home construction and rising new home sales as reasons why prices of existing homes are seeing slower growth.

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Case Shiller Price Index Shows Highest Year-Over-Year Gains Since 2006

Case Shiller Price Index Shows Highest Year-Over-Year Gains Since 2006The Case-Shiller 10 and 20-City Home Price Indices for October were released on December 31. Although home prices in most cities continued to show year-over-year gains, the pace of home price appreciation is expected to slow in 2014.

Year-over-year increases have been in double digit territory since March 2013, but month-to-month readings suggest that the rate of increasing home prices is slowing.

According to David Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, “…the monthly numbers show that we are living on borrowed time and the boom is fading.”

The 10 and 20 city indices are showing that home prices some cities that were showing little or no growth in 2013 are posting higher rates of appreciation, while growth in cities that have shown very high increases in home prices are beginning to lose momentum.

Year-over-Year Growth In Double Digits

The 10-and 20-city indices each posted year-over year gains of 13.60 percent between October 2012and October 2013. These were the highest year-over-year gains since February of 2006.

Home prices recovered to mid-2004 levels in October, but remained 20 percent lower than peak home prices seen in June and July of 2006.

Here are figures for 10 cities showing the highest increases in home prices year-over-year in October 2013:

City                                                                        Y-O-Y Growth Rate

Las Vegas, NV                                              27.10 %

San Francisco, CA                                         24.60%

Los Angeles, CA                                           22.10%

San Diego, CA                                             19.70%

Atlanta, GA                                                  19.00%

Phoenix, AZ                                                 18.10%

Detroit, MI                                                   17.30%

Miami, FL                                                    15.80%

Tampa, FL                                                   15.20%

Seattle, WA                                                 13.10 %

Home prices in the 10 and 20-city indices have gained 23.10 percent and 23.70 percent since home prices reached their lowest points in March 2012.

Month-To-Month Readings Indicate Slower Growth

Month-to-month readings show a slowing trend in home price growth. 18 of 20 cities included in the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Indices showed slower growth in October as compared to September’s readings.

The Federal Reserve will begin tapering its asset purchases this month and will continue doing so unless economic conditions slow to a point where the Fed considers tapering counter-productive to economic growth.

Concerns over the tapering of “quantitative easing” and higher mortgage rates are seen as contributing to slower gains in home prices.

Although some analysts have identified indicators of economic growth, most seem to agree that home prices are likely to increase by single-digit percentages in 2014.

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New Home Sales Show Healthy Year-Over-Year Increase

New Home Sales Show Healthy Year-Over-Year IncreaseThe holiday season and winter weather slowed home sales in November. Last week, the NAR reported that sales of existing homes had slumped to their lowest level in nearly a year, but this was not unexpected.  

Short supplies of available homes and rising mortgage rates have increased pent-up demand for homes have kept some buyers on the sidelines.

Improvement In The Labor Market

4.90 existing homes were sold in November; this was lower than the 5.13 million existing homes sold in October, as well as lower than expectations of 5.00 million existing home sales in November.

Existing home sales for November 2013 were also 1.20 percent lower than for November 2012; this is the first time in 29 months that existing home sales were lower year-over-year.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR, described the slow-down in sales as a “clear loss of momentum.” The outlook for 2014 is better, as analysts expect continued improvement in the labor market. 

The pent-up demand for homes will ease as homeowners begin to list their homes for sale as home prices increase. Mr. Yun also noted that prices for existing homes are increasing at their highest rate in eight years.

The national median home price of existing homes rose to $196,000 in November, which represents a year-over-year increase of 9.40 percent. There was a 5.1 month supply of previously homes available at the current sales rate.

Housing Market Continues To Progress Over Long Term

The Census Bureau and HUD report that 464,000 new homes were sold in November. This was 2.10 percent lower than October’s rate of 474,000 new homes sold. This represents an increase of 16.60 percent as compared to the 398,000 new homes sold in November 2012.

The national median home price for new homes in November was $270,900; with an average new home price of $340,300. The seasonally-adjusted estimate of new homes for sale in November was 167,000; this reading represents a 4.30 month supply of new homes for sale.

While home builder confidence is up and recent labor reports indicate improving job markets, the Fed’s decision to taper its quantitative easing program in January is generating some uncertainty as mortgage rates will likely rise as the Fed winds down the QE program.

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Housing Market Index Shows Builder Confidence Up 23 Percent Year-Over-Year

Housing Market Index Shows Builder Confidence Up 23 Percent Year- Over- Year According to the National Association of Homebuilders/Wells Fargo Homebuilders Market Index for December, builder confidence recovered in with a reading of 58. This surpassed both expectations of 56 and last month’s reading of 54.

Analysts noted that builder confidence has steadied after the government shutdown. December’s reading was the highest in four months. Dave Crowe, NAHB chief economist, said that his organization was expecting a “gradual improvement in the housing recovery” in 2014.

Any reading above 50 indicates that more builders are confident about overall housing market conditions than not.

Builder Confidence – Highest Reading Since 2005

Pent-up demand for housing is driving housing markets in spite of higher mortgage rates. Three components of builder confidence used to calculate the overall reading also rose in December. Builder confidence in current home sales rose to 64 from a reading of 58 in November; this is the highest reading since 2005.

Confidence levels in housing markets over the next six months rose to 62 from last month’s reading of 60. Builder confidence also grew in the area of buyer foot traffic in new developments and gained three points to a reading of 44.

All of this is good news, but the NAHB said that a gap remains between higher home builder confidence and the rate of new home construction. A seasonal lull in home construction is not unusual especially in areas experiencing harsh weather.

More Jobs, Low Refinance Numbers Could Mean More Mortgages Available

MarketWatch analysts suggest that if the economy continues to add jobs “at a brisk pace” and mortgage lenders ease lending requirements next year, the demand for homes could further strengthen the U.S. housing market next year.  

Low numbers of refinance mortgages in 2013 may cause some lenders to loosen mortgage credit requirements, which were tightened after the housing bubble burst.

Economic News scheduled for today may provide a broader picture of economic health and likely trends for 2015. The Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee will provide its expected statement after its meeting, and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will give his last press conference as Fed chair as well.

Any indication of plans to reduce the Fed’s current quantitative easing program could upset financial and mortgage markets, but most economic analysts don’t expect an announcement of tapering the Fed’s asset purchases before next year.

Data on November Housing Starts and Building Permits will also offer clues as to how housing markets and the general economy are doing.

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