Existing home sales, as reported by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), increased 3.2% in September and were up 0.6% from the same month a year ago, as first-time buyers seized a 34% share of sales. Total existing home sales in September increased to a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.47 million units combined for single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, up from a downwardly adjusted 5.30 million units in August.
September existing sales increased in all four regions, ranging from 5.7% in the Northeast to 0.9% in the South. Sales increased by 5.0% in the West in September, despite a 5.3% decrease in the August PHSI for that region. Year-over-year, September sales increased by 2.3% in the Midwest and 1.6% in the West, while falling 0.9% in the South. The Northeast remained unchanged year-over-year for September.
Total housing inventory increased by 1.5% in September, but remains 6.8% lower than its level a year ago. At the current sales rate, the September unsold inventory represents a 4.5-month supply, compared to a 4.6-month supply in August.
The August all-cash sales share was 21%, down from 22% in August and 24% during the same month a year ago. Individual investors purchased a 14% share in September, up from 13% in August and a year ago. The September first-time home buyer share of 34% was up from 31% in August, and 29% from the same month a year ago. Distressed sales, comprised of foreclosures and short sales, fell to 4%, the lowest rate since NAR launched that series in 2008.
The September median sales price of $234,200 was 5.6% above the same month a year ago, and represents the 55th consecutive month of year-over-year increases. The median condominium/co-op price of $222,100 in September was up 6.1% from the same month a year ago.
Home affordability is at the worst level in seven years, with 24% of the U.S. county housing markets less affordable than their historic affordability averages in the third quarter, the most recent ATTOM Data Solutions Home Affordability Index for third quarter 2016 recorded.
This level is not only up from 22% of markets in the previous quarter, but it is up from 19% of markets a year ago.
The only other time affordability came in worse than this was in third quarter of 2009 when 47% of markets were less affordable than their historic affordability averages.
The affordability index is based on the percentage of average wages needed to make monthly house payments on a median-priced home with a 30-year fixed rate and a 3% down payment — including property taxes and insurance.
“The improving affordability trend we noted in our second quarter report reversed course in the third quarter as home price appreciation accelerated in the majority of markets and wage growth slowed in the majority of local markets as well as nationwide, where average weekly wages declined in the first quarter of this year following 13 consecutive quarters with year-over-year increases,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM Data Solutions.
“This unhealthy combination resulted in worsening affordability in 63% of markets despite mortgage rates that are down 45 basis points from a year ago.
According to the report, out of the 414 counties analyzed in the report, 101 counties (24%) had an affordability index below 100 in the third quarter of 2016, meaning that buying a median-priced home in that county was less affordable than the historic average for that county going back to the first quarter of 2005.
Key counties highlighted include: Harris County (Houston), Texas; Kings County (Brooklyn), New York; Dallas County, Texas; Bexar County (San Antonio), Texas; and Alameda County, California in the San Francisco metro area.
Despite the negative news, Blomquist did point out one positive area.
“Some silver lining in this report is that affordability actually improved in some of the highest-priced markets that have been bastions of bad affordability, mostly the result of annual home price appreciation slowing to low single-digit percentages in those markets,” Blomquist continued.
He explained that this is an indication that home prices are finally responding to affordability constraints — a modicum of good news for prospective buyers who have been priced out of those high-priced markets.
This infographic from ATTOM Data Solutions shows the U.S. home affordability affliction and some possible antidotes.
S&P Dow Jones Indices released the Case-Shiller (CS) National Home Price Index for July. The index rose at a seasonally adjusted annual growth rate of 5.0%, faster than the 2.1% in June. House prices have decelerated since the beginning of 2016 due to the sharp decline in existing home sales at the end of 2015. But, home prices started to accelerate in May and home price appreciation increased to 5.0% in July.
The Home Price Index from the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) rose at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.8% in July, following 3.4% in June, confirming the reacceleration in home prices.
However, local housing markets varied greatly. Figure 2 shows home price appreciation for 20 major U.S. metropolitan areas in July.
Twelve out of the 20 metro areas had positive home price appreciation. The highest one in the list was Portland, OR with an annual rate of 8.2%, followed by Denver with an annual rate of 6.6%. Phoenix placed third with an annual rate of 5.9%.
Home price appreciation in the remaining eight metro areas was negative. They are San Francisco, Washington, DC, Atlanta, Chicago, Boston, Detroit, Minneapolis, and New York. Home price appreciation in Chicago was -5.9%, the lowest among 20 metro areas.
Average commitment rates should be reported along with average fees and points to reflect the total upfront cost of obtaining the mortgage. Visit the following link for the Definitions. Borrowers may still pay closing costs which are not included in the survey.
Attributed to Sean Becketti, chief economist, Freddie Mac.
“This week the 10-year Treasury yield continued its climb as an increasing number of financial market participants foresee a December rate hike after a series of positive economic data releases. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage moved up 5 basis points to 3.47 percent in this week’s survey, the first increase in one month. Even though we’ve seen economic activity pick up, consumer price inflation and implied inflation expectations remain below the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent target.”
There are a lot more apartments available for purchase these days in Manhattan. And fewer people are buying.
Sales of previously owned condominiums and co-ops fell 20 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier as potential buyers grew cautious amid more choices, according to a report Tuesday from appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and brokerage Douglas Elliman Real Estate. There were 5,290 resale apartments on the market at the end of September, 53 percent more than the number available in late 2013, the lowest point for listings.
The swelling inventory is providing an opportunity to New Yorkers shut out of a market in which construction has been dominated by ultra-luxury condos aimed at the wealthiest buyers. Resales, particularly those priced at less than $1 million, were in chronically short supply in recent years, and those that made it to the market sparked bidding wars. Now, more owners are listing apartments to profit from climbing values, and they’re finding lots of company.
“Rapidly rising prices over the years have pulled more sellers into the market hoping to cash out,” Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel, said in an interview. “But buyers are more wary. There isn’t the same intensity of activity to burn through the new supply.”
Buyers agreed to pay more than the asking price in just 17 percent of all condo and co-op deals that closed in the third quarter, down from a record 31 percent a year earlier, according to Miller Samuel and Douglas Elliman. Consumers also are taking longer to make a decision. Previously owned properties that sold in the period spent an average of 72 days on the market, up from 67 days a year ago.
The median price of all resales in the quarter climbed 2.6 percent to $950,000, Miller Samuel and Douglas Elliman said. That’s a step down in a three-year period in which annual price growth once reached 18 percent. Many sellers have yet to accept that they can no longer name any price, and the disconnect between their expectations and what buyers are willing to pay is contributing to the drop in overall sales, Miller said.
“We’re clearly seeing a slowdown,” Miller said. “This era of aspirational pricing is coming to an end. Buyers get the message first.”
For a Bloomberg Intelligence piece on New York apartment rents, click here.
When Connie Lam wanted to sell her Chelsea studio, she knew that curbing her exuberance would help her sell it fast. Lam, who bought the the 441-square-foot (41-square-meter) unit in 2013 for $555,000, listed it for sale in June, just one month before a planned move to California. Working with Douglas Elliman broker Rachel Altschuler, Lam priced her apartment at $625,000 after seeing that another studio of the same size on her floor was already on the market for $650,000.
“There were people who were interested immediately,” said Lam, 28, an attorney now living in Redwood City. “My goal was to get out and have a buyer who was really solid and wasn’t going to back out on me at the last second.”
The listing drew three offers, and was under contract at the asking price within two weeks. The deal closed in August, while the other apartment on her floor, on the market since May, is still without a buyer. Its price has since been cut to $635,000.
The drumbeat of hammers echoes most mornings through suburban Denver, where Jay Small, the owner of company that frames houses, is building about 1,300 new homes this year.
That’s more than triple what he built a few years ago, when “you couldn’t buy a job” in the residential construction industry, he said.
Now, builders can’t buy enough workers to get the job done.
Eight years after the housing bust drove an estimated 30 percent of construction workers into new fields, homebuilders across the country are struggling to find workers at all levels of experience, according to the National Association of Homebuilders. The association estimates that there are approximately 200,000 unfilled construction jobs in the U.S. – a jump of 81 percent in the last two years.
The ratio of construction job openings to hiring, as measured by the Department of Labor, is at its highest level since 2007.
“The labor shortage is getting worse as demand is getting stronger,” said John Courson, chief executive of the Home Builders Institute, a national nonprofit that trains workers in the construction field.
The impact is two-fold. Without enough workers, residential construction is trailing demand for homes, dampening the overall economy.
And with labor costs rising, homebuilders are building more expensive homes to maintain their margins, which means they are abandoning the starter home market. That has left entry-level homes in tight supply, shutting out may would-be buyers at a time when mortgage rates are near historic lows.
Nationwide, there are 17 percent fewer people working in construction than at the market peak, with some states – including Arizona, California, Georgia and Missouri – seeing declines of 20 percent or more, according to data from the Associated General Contractors of America.
The labor shortage is raising builders’ costs – and workers’ wages – and slowing down construction.
Small, the Denver builder, estimates that he could construct at least 10 percent more homes this year if he had enough workers. But he remains short-staffed, despite raising pay to levels above what he paid during the housing bubble a decade ago.
“It’s getting to the point where you’re really limited in what you can deliver,” Small said. “We lost so many people in the crash, and we’re just not getting them back.”
The average construction cost of building a single family home is 13.7 percent higher now than in 2007, even as the total costs of building and selling a house – a figure that includes such items as land costs, financing and marketing – are up just 2.9 percent over the same period, according to a survey by the National Association of Homebuilders.
The problem is accentuated by strong demand for newly constructed homes, with sales reaching a nine-year high in July.
Private companies say that they are having a hard time attracting workers, and they are often forced to give employees on-the-spot raises to prevent them from going to competitors. Carpenters and electricians are often listed as the most in-demand specialties.
Tony Rader, the vice president of Schwob Building Company, a general contractor in the Dallas area, said his company has started handing out flyers at sporting events, churches and schools in hopes of luring more people into the field.
“The biggest problem I face every day is where are we going to find the people to do the work,” he said, adding that it’s becoming increasingly common for his company and others to turn down projects.
Dallas contractors are fighting over the limited supply of workers as three major mixed-use projects are going up right next to each other on the so-called “$5 billion mile” in Frisco, a northern suburb. Meanwhile, the metropolitan area is adding about 30,000 newly built homes annually.
With fewer workers, contractors are becoming wary of signing new work contracts, especially as many of them include fines for not completing a job by a designated date.
“I’ve got two lawsuits right now where it may cost us mid-six-figures because there’s not enough labor out there to get it done,” said one contractor in the North Dallas area who declined to be identified.
Lawyers in hot residential markets say that it is becoming increasingly common for construction companies to try to negotiate for more time.
“Subcontractors are having a hard time staffing up,” said Edward Allen, a Denver attorney who said he has seen more lawsuits over project delays in the past two years.
GUARANTEED WORK, FEW TAKERS
Colorado alone will need 30,000 more workers in the construction field in the next six years, a number that does not account for those who will retire, according to a study by the Association of General Contractors.
The state passed a bill last year pledging $10 million over three years to fund free training for plumbers, electricians and carpenters.
Yet Michael Smith, who heads a Denver-based nonprofit that administers the training, said that he can’t fill the seats. High schools are focused on preparing students for college, ignoring those that may be better suited for vocational work. Students may be put off by construction’s reputation as a dangerous, cyclical field, he said.
“We’ve so demonized working with your hands in this country,” he said. “We’ve got a booming economy, and we can’t keep up with the pace of growth.”
Students who go through the four-week program are all but guaranteed a job paying $16 an hour or more immediately, with the possibility of commanding $80,000 or more in annual income after five years without taking on any student debt, he said.
On-the-job training is also a common path for new workers. Eduardo Salcido – a 25-year-old concrete finisher working at a 232-home Toll Brothers subdivision going up in the Denver suburb of Broomfield – said that he received on-site training after entering the construction field as a painter.
He has earned one raise since beginning the training two years ago and is now certified as a semi-skilled finisher.
How has the housing market changed since the recession? A new report by Apartment List paints a less-than-positive picture for renters. In the aftermath of the mortgage crisis, many of the costs of homeownership have gone done, even as homeownership rates reach record lows. At the same time, costs associated with renting have risen at a time when more and more Americans are renting apartments and single-family homes.
While homeownership rates have reached historic lows across the country, hitting numbers not seen since the ‘60s, three particular areas and demographics have seen the biggest loss. According to the Apartment List analysis of Census data, the recent downturn really hit those living in Sunbelt Cities (Las Vegas, Orlando, Atlanta), Americans under 45 years of age, and Hispanic and African-American consumers.
In fact, minorities experienced the largest drops in homeownership: Hispanics (-4.0%), African Americans (-5.5%), and other minorities (-6.7%). Non-Hispanic whites were somewhat less affected, with a homeownership decline of -3.3%.
While a drop in the national homeownership rate has serious implications for long-term financial health, those who do own are often reaping the benefits of lower costs, especially compared to renters. Historically low interest rates mean monthly payments have dropped 13% since 2007. That can really add up: the median monthly mortgage payment is $2,754, but widespread refinancing has cut that to $2,263, a savings of roughly $6,000 a year. With median household income at $54,000 in 2014, that extra money can provide a significant boost.
The story is much different for renters. Rents have increased an average of 3.7% nationwide, exacerbating differences between owners and renters. For instance, in Houston, homeownership costs have dropped $289 since the Recession, while the cost to rent has risen by $115.
The median national rent increased from $901 to $934. While $33 may seem small, held up against a steep 14% drop in inflation-adjusted income for renters, and it becomes much more significant.
Like many aspects of the U.S. economy in the last decade, the stratification of the housing market may only increase inequality. Those with the money to buy are reaping the advantages of historically low costs, while those who can’t, especially Millennials and minorities, are being locked out and missing out on a chance to build household wealth.