Mortgage Rates Mixed, Demand Rising

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, the average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances was unchanged last week from the week before. Mortgage rates on 30-year loans with jumbo balances and those backed by the Federal Housing Administration fell slightly, while the average rate on 15-year fixed-rate loans was up. With rates mostly flat from the week before, demand for mortgage applications increased 2.4 percent. The increase was the first in many weeks and was largely due to a bump in refinance activity. In fact, the Refinance Index rose 4 percent and, as a share of total mortgage activity, refinance demand accounted for 54.4 percent of all applications. The Purchase Index, on the other hand, only gained 0.3 percent from one week earlier. The MBA’s weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

Existing Home Sales Hit 8-Month High

In June, sales of previously owned homes reached their fastest pace this year, climbing to a projected annual pace of 5 million sales for the first time since October 2013. The estimates, released by the National Association of Realtors, show existing-home sales up 2.6 percent from the month before and just 2.3 percent below year-before levels. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said housing fundamentals are moving in the right direction. According to Yun, home sales should continue improving in the coming months as inventory rises and price gains continue to moderate, giving potential home buyers more choices and more favorable affordability conditions. In fact, the number of homes currently available for sale is at its highest point in more than a year and home prices are just 4.3 percent above last June. Also in the release, sales increased in all four regions of the country, though the Midwest saw the biggest gains with a 6.2 percent improvement from the month before. The June sales report joins other recently released data detailing an improving outlook for the housing market after a tough first half of the year. More here.

What Home Buyers Want More Than Location

Among today’s home buyers, nearly half would sacrifice location for desirable in-home features, according to a new survey from one of the nation’s largest homebuilders. The surprising survey results indicate that buyers are searching for move-in ready homes complete with key features and amenities and a significant number of them are willing to give up on proximity to entertainment and shopping and even better schools in order to get them. A representative for the homebuilder said today’s buyer isn’t just looking for the biggest home on the block. Instead, they are interested in efficient use of space and homes with feature-filled kitchens, bedrooms, and bathrooms. In fact, the kitchen was the most important room in the home when deciding to buy a new house. A large eat-in area was the highest ranked feature, though a kitchen island came in a close second. Master bedrooms with his-and-her closets were cited as important to 31 percent of participants, while a home with at least one bathtub was named by 54 percent of respondents. Regionally, screened-in porches were popular in the Southeast, while Northeastern buyers wanted rooftop terraces and accordion-style glass doors were popular in the Southwest. More here.

Permits To Build New Homes On The Rise

Permits to build new single-family homes rose 2.6 percent In June, though overall permits were down 4.2 percent. The increase in authorizations to build new homes was a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing report. The estimates, released by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, showed housing starts down 9.3 percent overall, with a significant drop in the South. Housing starts – which measure the number of new homes that began construction during the month – were up in the West, Northeast, and Midwest. Economists could not explain why starts dropped so dramatically in the South, though they believe they will rebound in July. The rising number of building permits for single-family homes, on the other hand, is one of several recent improvements, including increasing builder confidence and new home sales, that indicate future gains in residential construction and the market for new homes. More here.

Builders Confident In Market For New Homes

The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index measures builders’ perceptions of the market for newly built single-family homes on a scale where any number above 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor. In July, the index increased four points to a reading of 53. It was the first time since January confidence has been above 50. David Crowe, NAHB’s chief economist, said an improving job market goes hand-in-hand with a rise in builder confidence. According to Crowe, as employment increases and those with jobs feel more secure about their economic situation, they are more likely to feel comfortable buying a home. July’s results also show increases to all three of the index’s individual components, including a six-point spike in expectations for future sales. Regionally, the West increased five points and the South was up two points from the month before. The Midwest rose a point to 35 and the Northeast climbed two points to 48. More here.

Mortgage Rates Up Slightly, Demand Slows

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Applications Survey, average mortgage rates rose slightly last week across all loan categories, including 30-year fixed rate loans with both conforming and jumbo balances, 15 year fixed-rate loans, and mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration. But despite rates remaining low and relatively flat from the week before, mortgage application demand fell 3.6 percent. The drop in demand was largely due to an 8 percent decline in the seasonally adjusted Purchase Index, which is a future-indicator of home sales. And, though any significant decrease in purchase activity can be concerning, industry experts say the dip in application demand for loans to buy homes could have more to do with the July 4th holiday than it does with home sales trending downward. The MBA’s weekly survey has been conducted since 1990 and covers 75 percent of all retail residential mortgage applications. More here.

Is Today’s Market Best For Buyers Or Sellers?

Over the past few years, housing quickly shifted from a buyers’ bonanza to a sellers’ market due to rapidly rising home prices. Home values – which experienced double-digit drops during the financial crisis – rebounded significantly and made the market more attractive to homeowners who wanted to sell. But, as more owners put their homes up for sale, the increase in available inventory slowed price gains and, once again, tipped the scales toward prospective buyers. Now, according to a new survey of real-estate agents, the question of whether it’s a buyers’ or sellers’ market is a difficult one to answer. It typically takes awhile before the market can adjust to recent changes in prices and buyer demand. That means, though today’s potential home buyer may have confidence that they can hold out for a good deal because there are plenty of homes to choose from, today’s seller may also be confident and feel that they can get the price they want because recent increases in inventory have yet to affect asking prices. This disconnect should be temporary, however, as sellers adjust their asking prices and the market continues to normalize after many years of volatility. More here.

Gov’t Report Finds Signs Of Summer Rebound

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of the Treasury release a Housing Scorecard each month collecting key market data and the results of the administration’s foreclosure prevention efforts. According to their most recent report, the housing market is showing signs of a summer rebound with many key indicators moving in a positive direction, including growing homeowner equity, surging sales of new and existing homes, and foreclosure starts continuing to trend downward. Katherine O’Regan, HUD’s assistant secretary for policy development and research, said the June Housing Scorecard shows that the residential real-estate market continues to make progress as we enter the summer months but, given the severity of the housing crisis, there is still work to be done. Still, there are increasing signs of a healthy recovery. Among the report’s highlights, new home sales rose by 18.6 percent in May and are now 16.9 percent above year-before levels. Existing home sales are also up, rising 4.9 percent in May. Foreclosure starts, on the other hand, have fallen to their lowest level since December 2005 and are now down 32 percent from one year ago. More here.

Home Price Gains Get Smaller, More Widespread

Home prices are increasing at a slower rate than before but they’re also rising in more metropolitan areas than at any time since the housing recovery began. In fact, according to Trulia’s most recent Price Monitor, home prices rose in 97 of 100 metros compared with last June. But, though the increases are more widespread than before, they aren’t as large as they were last year or even last quarter. Nationally, home values are up 8.1 percent year-over-year. In June 2013, home prices were up 9.5 percent from the year before. Quarterly results also show the rate of increase falling, with gains dropping from 3.1 percent to 2.6 percent in the most recent report. Smaller increases across more metropolitan areas indicate home prices are normalizing, as areas hit hard by the foreclosure crisis are leveling and increases are beginning to spread into new areas. As evidence, Western cities are no longer dominating the list of top 10 biggest price gains among metro areas. Cities in the South and Midwest now claim eight of the top ten spots, while Western metros – which were posting more than 20 percent year-over-year increases in 2013 – have now fallen from the list. More here .

Majority Of Young Americans Want To Buy

According to a recent survey from Pollara, 74 percent of 18-34 year olds plan to buy a home sometime in the next five years and nearly a third of them hope to buy in the next 12 months. The results confirm a high level of demand among young Americans who, for the most part, would be first-time home buyers. It also signals returning confidence in the housing market after years of volatility and instability. In fact, young Americans aren’t the only ones looking to purchase a home. A majority of Americans between the ages of 35 and 44 also said they plan to buy a home in the next five years and more than a third of those between ages 45 and 54 did as well. It is an encouraging sign for the residential real estate market and bodes well for future home sales and housing starts. Higher demand and more buyers will also help moderate price increases and boost for-sale inventory. The survey, which included current owners and renters, found that, among renters, 32 percent said they’d like to buy but can’t afford to, while just 12 percent said they prefer renting. More here.