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Pending Home Sales Point To Seller’s Market This Summer

April 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Pending Home Sales (2010-2011)The National Association of REALTORS® Pending Home Sales Index rose for the third straight month last month.

A “pending home sale” is a home under contract to sell, but not yet closed.

The Pending Home Sales Index rose 5 percent in March, posting its second-highest reading since April 2010. Not coincidentally, that month marked the expiration of last year’s federal home buyer tax credit.

Home buyers and sellers would do well to watch the Pending Home Sales Index each month. This is because — unlike most government and private data — the Pending Home Sales Index is a “forward-looking” indicator.

Because 80% of “pending” homes close within 2 months, and a significant share of the rest close within months 3 and 4, the Pending Home Sales Index tends to correlate to future strength (or weakness) in housing.

The Pending Home Sales Index, in other words, is an excellent precursor to the Existing Home Sales report, issued monthly.

By region, the Pending Home Sales Index varied last month.

  • Northeast : -3.2% from February
  • Southeast : +10.3% from February
  • Midwest : +3.0% from February
  • West : +3.1% from February

All 4 regions were worse from a year ago.

As with everything in housing, however, we must remember that real estate is neither national, nor regional. It’s local. Sales volume may be higher in areas like the Midwest, but that doesn’t mean that all Midwest markets are experiencing similar gains, if any gains at all.

To get local real estate data , talk to a real estate agent that specializes in that area. It’s the best way to know what’s happening on the street level.

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A Simple Explanation Of The Federal Reserve Statement (April 27, 2011 Edition)

April 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Putting the FOMC statement in plain EnglishEarlier today, the Federal Open Market Committee voted to leave the Fed Funds Rate unchanged within its current target range of 0.000-0.250 percent.

The vote was 10-0 — the third straight meeting after which the FOMC vote was unanimous.

In its press release, the FOMC noted that since its March 2011 meeting, the economic recovery is proceeding “at a moderate pace” and that labor markets conditions are “improving gradually”. Household spending and business investment “continue[s] to expand” but the housing sector remains “depressed”.

Furthermore, the FOMC’s statement discussed the Federal Reserve’s dual mandate of (1) Managing inflation levels, and (2) Fostering maximum employment. The statement acknowledged recent inflation pressures on the economy, but it expects those pressures — because they’re related to oil and food prices — to be “transitory”. Unemployment remains “elevated”.

The FOMC statement also re-affirms the group’s plan to keep the Fed Funds Rate near zero percent “for an extended period” of time, and to keep its $600 billion bond market support package — more commonly called “QE2” — intact.

The statement’s verbiage suggests that a third support package may be created after QE2 ends in June 2011, depending on the needs of the economy.

Mortgage market reaction to the FOMC statement has been positive thus far. Mortgage rates are unchanged, but leaning lower. And, as always, market sentiment could shift quickly. If you like today’s mortgage rates, consider locking in.

The FOMC’s next scheduled meeting is a 2-day event, June 20-21 2011.

New Home Supply Falls To 16-Year Low

April 27, 2011 Leave a comment

New Home Supply March 2010-March 2011After posting an all-time low in February, New Home Sales rebounded strongly last month.

Based on joint research from the Census Bureau and HUD, 300,000 new, single-family homes were sold on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis in March. It’s an 11 percent improvement from February, and right in-line with the 6-month average.

The supply of available new homes improved, too, in March, falling by close to a full month.

At the current pace of sales, the entire new home housing stock would be sold in 7.3 months. This is the second-best reading in a year, a statistic partially-supported by the relatively small number of new homes on the market.

There are now just 183,000 new homes available for sale. That’s the smallest reading since the Census Bureau started to keep New Home Sales records beginning in 1995.

However, it should be noted that the March New Home Sales data is suspect. The reading’s margin of error exceeds it actual measurement by almost double. It’s possible that sales volume fell in March instead of rising, therefore. The Census Bureau says as much in its footnotes:

The change [in new home sales] is not statistically significant; that is, it is uncertain whether there was an increase or decrease [in March 2011].

We won’t know for certain until future data revisions are made.

If you’re a home buyer , though, and want to stay ahead of the market, you won’t want to take chances. If the Census Bureau finds its data to be accurate after revisions are made, new home prices will already have started to rise.

You may get your best home value by buying sooner rather than later.

Mortgage Rates — And Home Affordability — At The Whim Of The Federal Reserve

April 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Fed Funds Rate and Mortgage Rates 1990-2011

The Federal Open Market Committee starts a two-day meeting today, the third of its 8 scheduled meetings this year.

The FOMC is a special, 12-person committee within the Federal Reserve. It’s led by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and the group is responsible for voting on our nation’s monetary policy. This includes setting the Fed Funds Rate, the rate at which banks borrow money from each other overnight.

The general public tends to confuse the Fed Funds Rate for “mortgage rates” but, as shown in the chart at top, the two interest rates are very different. There is no direct correlation between the Fed Funds Rate and everyday mortgage rates.

Since 1990, the two benchmark rates have been separated by as much as 5.29 percent, and have been as close as 0.52 percent.

Today, the separation between the Fed Funds Rate and the national average for a standard, 30-year fixed rate mortgage is 4.625 percent. This spread will widen — or shrink — beginning 12:30 PM ET Wednesday. That’s when the FOMC adjourns and releases its public statement to the markets.

According to Wall Street, there’s a 100% chance that the FOMC leaves the Fed Funds Rate in its current “target range” of 0.000-0.250 percent, the same range in which it’s been since December 2008. Depending on the verbiage in the press release, plus the comments of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke in his scheduled, 2:15 PM ET press briefing, mortgage rates aren’t expected to steady as well.

If the Fed projects higher growth in late-2011/early-2012, or hints at new market stimuli, expect mortgage rates to rise on concerns about inflation. Inflation is bad for mortgage rates, in general.

On the other hand, if the Fed indicates that the economy is slowing down, or that it plans to withdraw its existing, $600 billion bond market stimulus, look for mortgage rates to fall.

It’s hard to be a home buyer when the Federal Open Market Committee meets. There’s just so much that can change mortgage rates and rising mortgage rates can affect purchasing power in a flash.

In the 6 months since November 2010, home affordability is off 9%.

So, if you’re shopping for mortgages, or just floating a rate, consider getting locked in before the FOMC issues its press release Wednesday. Once the statement hits, mortgage rates could soar.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week : April 25, 2011

April 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Federal Reserve 2-day meeting this weekMortgage markets improved slightly through last week’s holiday-shortened trading sessions. Better-than-expected housing data led mortgage rates higher Tuesday and Wednesday, but rates retreated Thursday morning in advance of Good Friday.

Markets were closed Thursday afternoon and Friday. They re-open this morning.

Conforming mortgage rates ended last week unchanged overall. It’s a strange outcome considering that Standard & Poor’s issued a downgrade on U.S. debt Monday.

In most instances, a debt downgrade would lead investors away from a particular group of securities — in this case, a group that includes mortgage-backed bonds. However, Wall Street reacted in the opposite.

When S&P issued its opinion, however, mortgage bonds rallied.

Some say this is because the downgrade will force Congress to address a rising debt-load; others think a downgrade slows growth which, in turn, slows down inflation. Both scenarios are considered a positive for mortgage bonds. Hence, mortgage rates fell.

This week, momentum could reverse. In addition to a slew of housing and economic data including New Home Sales, Pending Home Sales, and Consumer Confidence data, the Federal Open Market Committee is meeting for the third time this year. And this month, the FOMC is meeting a little differently.

Usually, when the FOMC gets together, it adjourns and releases a press statement to the markets at 2:15 PM ET. This month, though, the FOMC will release its statement at 12:30 PM ET, and then Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will hold a press briefing at 2:15 PM ET to address the aforementioned statement. He’s expected to add growth forecasts to the official FOMC release, among other items.

Whenever the FOMC meets, mortgage rates can be volatile. This week, with the new press briefing format, that volatility is even more likely.

If you’re floating a mortgage rate or wondering whether to lock, mortgage rates will be at their “calmest” levels of the week Monday and Tuesday. Once Wednesday hits, and the FOMC statements begin, expect for rates to change.

 

Demand Is Rising, Supplies Are Falling : Home Prices Set To Rise?

April 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Existing Home Sales Mar 2010-Mar 2011Home resales rose 4 percent last month, according to the March Existing Home Sales report. A total of 5.1 million homes were sold on an annualized, seasonally-adjusted basis.

The strong results re-establish the national, long-term trend toward rising home resales.

March marked the 6th month out of eight in which sales volume has increased and sales are up 32 percent from July 2010 lows.

Home supply has resumed its downward trajectory, too.

At the current pace of sales, the entire home resale inventory would be depleted in 8.4 months. This is 0.1 months faster as compared to February, and a full month faster than the 12-month average.

The Existing Home Sales report also included a breakdown by buyer-type.

  • First-time buyers bought 33% of homes, down from 34% in February
  • Repeat buyers bought 45% of homes, down from 47% in February
  • Investors bought 22% of homes, up from 19% in February

35 percent of buyers paid in cash.

And, perhaps most noteworthy, according to the National Association of REALTORS®, 40 percent of March home resales were “distressed properties”. Distressed homes include foreclosures, short sales, and REO and typically sell at discounts “in the vicinity” of 20 percent.

Home prices are based on the basic economic theory of Supply and Demand. So, with home supplies dropping and demand for homes rising, it’s reasonable to expect home values to rise later this year.

If you’re in the market for a home, play the recent trends to your advantage. Today, homes are affordable and mortgage rates are low. This may not be the case later this year. The best “deals” of the year may be what you buy now.

Building Permits Rise In All 4 Regions

April 20, 2011 Leave a comment

Housing Starts (Apr 2009 - Mar 2011)According to the Census Bureau, seasonally-adjusted, single-family Housing Starts rebounded in March, increasing 8 percent over February’s 2-year low.

We can’t put too much faith in the data, however, because for the second straight month, the government reports that the data’s margin of error — 15 percent — exceeds its actual measurement.

As written in the footnotes, there’s no “statistical evidence to conclude that the actual change [in Housing Starts] is different from zero.”

In other words, single-family Housing Starts may have dropped up to 7 percent last month, or may have increased by as much as 22 percent. We won’t know for certain until several months from now. As the Census Bureau gathers more data, it will revise its initial monthly findings.

Such adjustments are common. February’s starts were revised higher by 4.5%, for example.

Also included in the Census Bureau’s report is the March 2011 Building Permits tally. As compared to February, permits were higher by 6 percent nationwide. This is a noteworthy development because permits-issued is an excellent forward-predictor for housing.

When permits are issued, 86 percent of them will start construction within 60 days. This means that new home sales and housing stock should follow the Building Permits report trend, but on a 2-month delay.

Permits were strong in all 4 regions last month:

  • Northeast : +2.6 percent from February
  • Midwest : +10.0 percent from February
  • South : +5.3 percent from February
  • West : +5.3 percent from February

With Building Permits rising, we can infer that the housing market is improving.

Therefore, if you’re currently looking for new construction, consider that the market may be less favorable for buyers 4-6 months from now than it is today. Especially because homebuilders are already projecting higher sales volume.

The better time to buy new construction — relative — may be now.

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