Mortgage rates in 2012 averaged lowest levels in 65 years
Mortgage rates fall in last survey of 2012
Mortgage rates dropped on a weekly basis, matching the downward trend seen for much of 2012, Freddie Mac revealed in its last weekly mortgage survey of the year.
According to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey for the week ending December 27, 2012, fixed mortgage rates largely dropped on a weekly basis and ended the year at averages very close to historical low marks.
“Mortgage rates ended this year near record lows,” Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist at Freddie Mac, said in a statement. “The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.66 percent for 2012, the lowest annual average in at least 65 years.”
See also: Mortgage Rate Archives
In this latest data, 30-year fixed-rate mortgages dropped to an average rate of 3.35 percent, down from the previous week’s 3.37 percent average. Shorter-term 15-year fixed-rate mortgages stayed even week-over-week at an average 2.65 percent.
Both 30-year and 15-year fixed mortgages ended 2012 at averages far below those registered at the end of 2011.
One year ago at this time, 30-year fixed mortgages averaged 3.95 percent, while 15-year fixed mortgages averaged 3.24 percent.
The record-low mortgage-rate environment that persisted for the majority of 2012 helped keep affordability high for potential home buyers, Freddie Mac noted.
“Rates on 30-year fixed mortgages were nearly 0.6 percentage points below that of the beginning of the year, which translates into an interest payment savings of nearly $98,600 over the life of a $200,000 loan,” Nothaft said. “Moreover, opting for a 15-year fixed mortgage at today’s rates, a homeowner could save an additional $138,400 in interest payments.”
ARM rates mixed in latest data
Interest rates for adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) showed mixed results in this last survey of 2012, Freddie Mac said, but also ended the year close to record lows.
Average rates for 5-year AMRs dropped slightly week-over-week from 2.71 percent to 2.70 percent, while 1-year ARMs rose to an average of 2.56 percent after coming in at 2.52 percent the previous week.
One year ago at this time, 5-year ARMs averaged 2.88 percent and 1-year ARMs averaged 2.78 percent.
The next 10 years may bring five to six million new renter households. Or at least that’s what a recent infographic by the Bipartisan Policy Center is saying. So in the midst of a recovering housing market, why the shift toward a rise in rentals?
Although housing starts are up, construction will take some time to complete and the low inventory of houses may push many potential homeowners to consider renting.
“There is clearly an unmet demand for homeownership among young households,” Barry Zigas, director of Housing Policy for Consumer Federation of America, told HousingWire. “Those households are running up against a number of constraints.”
Factors such as tighter credit, larger down payments and decreased income with the rising generation will all play into the increase in renters in the years ahead.
“Credit for homeownership borrowing will likely be tighter and potentially more expensive, relative to earlier times,” Zigas said. “Families will likely have less wealth because the rising generation is starting with less wealth. If down payments are at any significant level, it will be a barrier to acquiring a home for longer than may have been the case in the past.”
There are several key groups that will be the driving force behind the rental demand, according to the below infographic. The growing number of seniors looking to downsize their homes, the young adults moving out on their own yet not ready for homeownership, the post-foreclosure homeowners and the growing number of immigrants in the U.S. will all play a significant role in the rising rental remand.
“We expect to see an increase in household formation and for a variety of reasons that household formation is likely to be more heavily concentrated among renters and households who are likely to be renters for somewhat longer than was the case for the last 20 years,” Zigas said.
Click on the image below to see the full infographic.
While the risks can be large, sometimes the biggest paydays on Wall Street come from making a contrarian bet on the most hated sector on the planet. This was never truer than during 2012.
The housing sector, which brought the financial system to its knees in 2008 and continued to be an albatross around the middle class for the next three years, was the hottest trade this year as consumer confidence improved and as the Federal Reserve kept interest rates low. The central bank even went so far as to purchase mortgage-backed securities.
The iShares U.S. Home Construction ETF (ITB) surged more than 75 percent in 2012 as shares of homebuilders such as Pulte Homes and Lennar doubled or nearly doubled and construction-related stocks like Home Depot jumped. More complicated mortgage-backed securities were among the biggest winners for hedge funds brave enough to buy them.
“They took the painful writedowns and survived the hit,” said Barry Ritholtz, CEO of Fusion IQ and author of The Big Picture blog. “And have you priced a mortgage lately? It’s 3.25 percent for a 30-year fixed.”
True to its function as a discounting mechanism, these stocks starting moving higher early on in the year in anticipation of a relatively sizeable increase in home prices.
It got there when prices climbed at a 4.3 percent annual rate in October, according to the latest seasonally-adjusted S&P/Case-Shiller 20-City Composite Index. That was higher than many economists predicted, but no surprise for buyers of these stocks.
“Since the businesses that were able to survive the home construction nuclear winter became so lean, they were highly leveraged to a pickup in business,” said Mitchell Goldberg, president of ClientFirst Strategy. “The homebuilding sector was one of those stories that you knew it would turn around eventually, but it took a heck of a long time.”
To be sure, the Home Construction ETF is down more than 60 percent from its high back in 2006. And during those days, home prices were posting double-digit annual gains on a monthly basis, according to S&P/Case-Shiller.
(Read More: Robert Shiller: Don’t Await Housing Boom)
Many investors think the easy money has been made in this trade and there will be tough sledding ahead again for the sector as unemployment stays elevated and foreclosures pressure prices.
“A lot of people seem to think that if the market turns around, that means more of the same,” said Professor Robert Shiller, Yale economist and co-creator of those very indexes, in an interview with CNBC this month. “We might see home prices go up a little bit above inflation, but it is not likely that we’ll see a real boom.”
So what’s the most hated sector going into 2013? Going by ETF performance, it’s natural gas with the U.S. Natural Gas Fund(UNG) down 27 percent in 2012. Feeling lucky?
When I set business goals, I always try and make them data-based. I believe I have pretty good instincts, but I trust data. Numbers give me direct feedback on the effectiveness of my tactics. So, when it comes to my blog, one of the places I look for feedback is Google Analytics. There is a wealth of information there, so I am looking for specific analytics that match my goals. Here are three key stats I am following.
1. Traffic Source: Referral Traffic
Bloggers want to be read, want to be seen, and want to drive people to their website. For those of us whose websites showcase our blogs, getting more people to the website is key. Even though guest posting and syndication are great exposure, they don’t necessarily get people to my website. Succinct calls to actions in a guest blog post (link to another related article on your website) can help, but nothing beats direct traffic.
Where is my traffic coming from? For me, it’s Twitter first at 42 percent, and then it drops off drastically to a number of sources under ten percent with LinkedIn high on the list and Google lower. So, I continue to strengthen my Twitter presence. One way is leaving my Twitter footprint on the web wherever I go, like commenting on other blog pieces using my Twitter login. Also, I will be using LinkedIn and Google+ more this year to promote my blog. But that low Google referral number is troubling to me, which leads to my second stat.
I admit that I have neglected keywords in the past—mostly due to a misunderstanding of how they are used. Last summer I hired a web developer to redesign my website and part of the redesign was an in-depth lesson in SEO. Now, I have five checkpoints for every blog piece that help insure that I am taking full advantage of good search practices. The developer installed a handy application on my WordPress dashboard called Yoast that helps me “check off” SEO priorities before I post. The biggest change: blog titles. I paid absolutely zero attention the SEO value of blog titles in the past—now I know better.
3. Page Goals
This is my project for early 2013. My blog doubles as my website. In order to get people past the initial blog entry to my business pages, I am devising strategies to get more visitors to click through to a business page. One way to help measure their effectiveness and then tweak the strategies is to set up custom page goals. Also, page goals will help me measure landing page effectiveness like free download offers, referral traffic from LinkedIn offers, and newsletter sign-ups. This is new terrain for me, but I need to be more strategic in measuring returns on my efforts.
What analytics do you use to measure success on your blog or website? I’m interested in getting your ideas and input in the comments.