Higher Home Prices & Rates

For the past two weeks we have assessed the reasons that home prices are rising. Without rehashing this data, suffice it to say that home prices are rising because the real estate market is finally recovering from a horrible slump. Many analysts are now debating whether recently rising interest rates may put a halt to the real estate recovery and the stock market rally as well. In our mind there is a direct relationship between rising home prices and higher rates. Why? For the past three plus years, we have seen a tepid economic recovery from a very deep recession. If one looks at the numbers today, the recovery still does not look strong. The economy has grown at an average of just over 1.0% for the past two quarters. That is not exactly robust numbers. The difference is that today the economy is being supported by positive growth from the real estate markets.
Real estate is a big part of the economy that fuels important behaviors such as consumer spending. When someone buys a house, they also tend to purchase furniture and undertake home improvements. We believe the markets are thinking about the future, not the past two quarters. Two years ago when economic growth slowed down, there was significant talk of another recession. Today, you don’t see the same level of fear. Home prices are up because the real estate markets are recovering. Rates are up because the economic recovery is on more sound footing with a real estate recovery supporting the upturn. The jobs report released on Friday was definitely indicative of this better news. Not only was the 195,000 jobs added more than forecast, the previous two months were revised higher by 70,000 jobs and hourly earnings had a solid advance as well.

The Markets. Freddie Mac announced that rates pulled back in the past week, however this data was released before a jump in rates occurred with the release of the employment report on Friday. Freddie Mac announced that for the week ending July 3, 30-year fixed rates fell from 4.46% to 4.29%. The average for 15-year loans decreased to 3.39%. Adjustable rates were mixed, with the average for one-year adjustables unchanged at 2.66% and five-year adjustables rising to 3.10%. A year ago 30-year fixed rates were at 3.62%. Attributed to Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac — “Rates on fixed loans fell over the holiday week as market concerns over the timing of the Federal Reserve’s pullback in bond purchases eased somewhat. Rates are still low by historical standards and should continue to aid in housing affordability and the ongoing recovery of the housing market. For instance, pending home sales rose 6.7% in May to the strongest pace in over six years. In addition, residential construction spending increased in four of the first five months this year.” Rates indicated do not include fees and points and are provided for evidence of trends only. They should not be used for comparison purposes.
Current Indices For Adjustable Rate Mortgages
Updated July 5, 2013
Daily Value Monthly Value
July 3 June
6-month Treasury Security 0.08% 0.09%
1-year Treasury Security 0.14% 0.14%
3-year Treasury Security 0.67% 0.58%
5-year Treasury Security 1.42% 1.20%
10-year Treasury Security 2.52% 2.30%
12-month LIBOR 0.684% (June)
12-month MTA 0.159% (June)
11th District Cost of Funds 0.951% (May)
Prime Rate 3.25%

New home sales continue to climb, rising to 476,000 completed transactions in May, according to government data. When evaluating single-family homes specifically, sales inched up 2.1% in May, above the revised April rate of 466,000 units. Last month’s sales are 29% above the May 2012 estimate of 369,000 sales, the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development noted in a report released June 25. “The housing market is without question surging. Last week’s report on existing home sales was very strong as is today’s report for new home sales which came in at a stronger-than-expected annual rate of 476,000 in May,” noted analysts at Econoday. At the end of May, the number of new homes for sale increased to 161,000 units, compared to 156,000 units in April. This represents a 4.1-month supply of homes at today’s sales pace, up slightly from April’s 4-month supply. Supply is moving higher as builders pick up the pace, noted analysts at Econoday. “Rising supply will help boost sales in the months ahead.” They added, “The housing sector is now the bread-and-butter strength of the economy.” Also pending home sales rose in May to the highest level since late 2006, implying a possible spark as rates began to rise, according to the National Association of Realtors®. The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, increased 6.7 percent to 112.3 in May from a downwardly revised 105.2 in April, and is 12.1 percent above May 2012 when it was 100.2. Contract activity is at its strongest pace since December 2006, when it reached 112.8. Also, pending sales have been above year-ago levels for the past 25 months. Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said there may be a fence-jumping effect. “Even with limited choices, it appears some of the rise in contract signings could be from buyers wanting to take advantage of current affordability conditions before rates move higher,” he said. Source: HousingWire and NAR
Inventories of for-sale homes are increasing as more owners see rising home prices and faster sales as a reason to try to sell now, according to industry reports. In April, the number of listings was higher than the level of homes that were under contract in that month, according to a study by the real estate brokerage ZipRealty, which measured listings in 24 major metro markets. “It’s less of an indication of buyer momentum flagging and more of seller momentum picking up, finally,” says Lanny Baker, the company’s chief executive. The reports find that homes are selling faster—on average, within 32 days of being listed. In April 2012, that average stood at 48 days for homes to sell. “A market in which the sale prices are happening very close to the list prices, a market in which the list prices seem to be moving sequentially higher, and a market in which any of those houses are selling speedily is one that is bringing sellers back,” Baker says. “That makes it feel to a seller that this isn’t going to be a long passive despair that I tried three years ago.” Source: The Wall Street Journal
A rebound in homebuilding after a six-year slump should generate as many as 500,000 jobs in 2013 and 700,000 in 2014 including related services, estimates Russell Price, a senior economist at Ameriprise Financial Inc. in Detroit and the top forecaster of employment for the past two years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. “Housing is like a coiled spring” driven by “a lot of pent-up demand,” said Glenn Hubbard, dean of Columbia University’s business school in New York, who was chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush. “It is a real source of strength in the economy — from construction jobs and all the vendors who play into it.” About half the jobs created by homebuilding are outside of construction, estimates the National Association of Home Builders, a Washington-based trade group. More than three jobs are created for each single-family home built, including related work, a 2008 study by the group estimates. “A revival in new home construction will have a huge stimulative effect on the larger economy,” said Brad Hunter, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.-based chief economist for housing research firm Metrostudy. “When home construction goes up, so does demand for furniture, tile, lumber, concrete, draperies, paint, and appliances of all sorts.” The increase in construction jobs so far has lagged new activity because workers have had their hours increased, said David Crowe, NAHB chief economist in Washington. Weekly hours have risen to an average of 36.8 the past year, the highest since December 2006. “We have seen increasing hours, but there is a limit to that,” he said. “I’m expecting to see a more direct correlation between increases in housing starts and increases in construction employment.” Source: Bloomberg

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