Existing home sales rebound, but manufacturing and services sector activity cools
Existing-home sales rebounded in May, increasing 2.5% month-over-month (m/m) to an annual rate of 5.34 million units, compared to the Bloomberg expectation of a rise to 5.27 million units and April’s upwardly-revised 5.21 million rate.
Sales of single-family homes were higher m/m, but down from year-ago levels, while purchases of condominiums and co-ops rose compared to last month and were down y/y.
The median existing-home price rose 4.8% from a year ago to $277,700, and marking the 87th straight month of y/y gains.
Unsold inventory came in at a 4.3-months pace at the current sales rate, up from 4.2 months a year ago. Sales rose in all regions, with the Northeast seeing the largest increase.
National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said, “The purchasing power to buy a home has been bolstered by falling mortgage rates, and buyers are responding,” adding, that “solid demand along with inadequate inventory of affordable homes have pushed the median home price to a new record high.”
Freddie Mac is launching a new mortgage product that allows borrowers to buy a fixer-upper and finance the renovation all with one loan. Existing homeowners can use it to repair or improve their properties.
The government-sponsored enterprise announced its new CHOICE Renovation loan product on Wednesday, saying it’s available immediately to all approved lenders. Lenders have two paths for delivering the loan to Freddie. They can either wait until the renovations are complete, or, for approved lenders, they can deliver the loan while work is ongoing if they’re providing oversight for the projects.
“We recognized there’s a significant amount of aging housing stock, both in under served areas and in the broader housing market, and there’s also a need for affordable housing,” Kelly Marrocco, director of credit policy at Freddie Mac said in an interview. “This is a new offering that allows people to purchase a home that needs repair, or allows existing homeowners to renovate without having to do a cash-out refinance.”
The new mortgage product has a unique feature to address the danger of natural disasters and flooding. It allows owners to use the funds to renovate or repair a property that has been damaged in a natural disaster or for changes that will help to prevent damage from a future disaster, such as work on storm surge barriers, foundation retrofitting, or retaining walls.
The funds “can be used to address housing resiliency items that will either repair damage or improve the homes ability to withstand environmental hazards,” Marrocco said.
The renovation market has grown by more than 50% since the Great Recession ended in 2009, Freddie Mac said in its announcement of the new loan product. Nearly 80% of the nation’s 137 million homes are at least 20 years old and 40% are at least 50 years old.
“Given the increasing age of existing housing stock, the growing number of millennials and other first-time home buyers looking for more affordable home buying options, and the increase in retirees opting to age in place, the Freddie Mac CHOICE Renovation mortgage is a flexible solution to finance or refinance these fixer-uppers,” Danny Gardner, a Freddie Mac senior vice president, said in the announcement.
Housing starts reversed course in May, signaling a slowdown in production, according to the latest report from the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Dept. of Commerce.
According to the analysis, housing starts fell 0.9% in May 2019 to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.269 million units.
Navy Federal Credit Union Economist Robert Frick said another weak housing report shows the housing industry is far from producing homes at a rate to satisfy demand.
“Housing starts in May were below both the annualized April rate and the rate from May a year ago, and housing completions in May were also below April’s rate and May 2018’s rate,” Frick said. “Permits rose strongly in May from April, which is good news, but were down from May of last year. Together the numbers show the housing industry continues to slip from last year.”
Single-family production retreated 6.4% from last month to 820,000 units while multifamily starts came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 436,000 units.
Additionally, single-family completions decreased 5% in 2019 to a rate of 890,000, while multifamily starts came in at 319,000 units.
However, permits grew 0.3% in May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.29 million.
Single-family authorizations increased 3.7% from last month’s rate to 815,000 permits and multifamily permits came in at an annualized rate of 442,000.
“At the current rate, the industry this year will build fewer than the 200,000 needed to keep up with population growth and demand,” Frick said. “Sub 4% mortgage rates should boost demand, but while the rate of home price increases is slowing, it is still rising, putting the dream of homeownership out of the reach of more Americans.”
“Given the restrictions of too little land zoned for housing, restrictive local building codes, and expensive labor and materials, home builders are hard-pressed to meet the growing demand for new homes,” Frick concluded.
Freddie Mac (OTCQB: FMCC) today released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing that after consistent declines in late spring, mortgage rates have stabilized with this week’s 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rate settling in near 3.8 percent for the third straight week.
Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, says, “While the continued drop in mortgage rates has paused, homebuyer demand has not. This is evident in increased purchase activity and loan amounts, indicating that homebuyers still have the willingness and capacity to purchase homes. Today’s low rates, strong job market, solid wage growth and consumer confidence are typically important drivers of home sales.”
30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.84 percent with an average 0.5 point for the week ending June 20, 2019, up from last week when it averaged 3.82 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.57 percent.
15-year FRM averaged 3.25 percent with an average 0.4 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.26 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 4.04 percent.
Data from the latest survey of the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Application Survey show small year-over-year gains in purchasing activity and larger year-over-year gains in refinancing activity. The Primary Market Mortgage Survey indicated no change in the 30-year fixed rate mortgage (FRM) from the previous week, at a non-seasonally adjusted rate of 3.8%. However, two weeks ago, the FRM decreased by 17 basis points from the week before, which was the largest week-to-week decline in over two months. A previous postreferred to trade disputes as a source of stagnating purchase activity for potential homeowners.
Year-over-year, the gains were strongest in refinance and far less pronounced in purchases, on a seasonally adjusted basis. The index for refinance increased by 79.5% while the index for purchase mortgages increased by 3.5%. The fixed-rate mortgage, however, has shown steady, year-over-year percentage declines since the start of 2019.
The Treasury Department on Tuesday issued final regulations that will officially prohibit high-tax states from utilizing workarounds to evade the new cap on state and local tax (SALT) deductions.
As part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, SALT deductions were capped at $10,000 – which is well below the average amounts claimed by individuals residing in states such as New York, California and New Jersey. The average deduction claimed in California, for example, is $22,000, according to Kevin de Leon, a Democratic member of the California state senate.
Therefore, in response, a number of state governments proposed or enacted legislation that would allow taxpayers to make charitable contributions to an established state fund in order to earn a credit. The goal would be to allow the residents to take the full amount given as a deduction by transforming a non-deductible payment into a charitable contribution.
However, the IRS blocked that strategy through guidelines issued on Tuesday, which require taxpayers to subtract the value of their state and local tax deductions from their charitable contributions.
The regulations also provide exceptions for state tax deductions and tax credits of no more than 15 percent of the amount of the donation.
The regulations apply to contributions made after Aug. 27, 2018.C
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in 2017 that he hoped it sent a message to state governments that “they should try to get their budgets in line.”
Meanwhile, Democrats have said they would try to undo the cap on state and local tax deductions. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said the new tax change would lead to a decline in revenues in the state because taxpayers would leave.
The Treasury said it would continue to evaluate the issue and release further guidance if necessary.
Mortgage rates have steadily declined with the 30-year fixed-rate bottoming out to 3.82 percent, its lowest level since September 2017, according to the latest figures from Freddie Mac.
Digital Risk co-founder Jeff Taylor told FOX Business’ Neil Cavuto that now is the time for new home buyers to take advantage of the bigger inventory on the market.
“If you’re looking to get into the housing market, i.e., you don’t have a house right now, this is literally the perfect time,” he during an interview on Monday. “Interest rates are about a one percentage point less than it was this time last year … that’s a 10 percent savings on a 30-year mortgage a month.”B
The Federal Reservemight cut the federal funds rate twice this year, a move that could cause the 30-year fixed rate to fall even lower.
“If you get two rate cuts at 50 and if you get to 75, yeah, I think you can be back down to three and a quarter [percent], Taylor said.C
Taylor adds that the lower interest rates allow consumers to reach a little deeper into their pockets and “afford more of a house.”
“People are feeling better about their jobs right now and they’ve been saving. It’s a great time to finally to get into the housing market and make a purchase,” he said.
The societal ramifications of state-legalized marijuana — a $10.4-billion industry — are being hashed out, study by study. And home values are one of the effects under scrutiny.
The link between real estate prices and weed might not be readily apparent, until one considers the en vogue vibe of licensed retail pot shops. Some are so slickly upscale-minimalist they sell branded yoga mats and Obama Kush, a Cannabis indica strain that “channels the president’s famous message of ‘change’ as it invigorates and inspires.”
Your favored budtender can set you up, and she might even offer hope: Lucrative legal weed does indeed seem to bake premium bucks into the worth of your home.
The most thorough study found that legalizing retail marijuana in Colorado increased housing values by about 6%, or $15,600 a property. Among all the factors contributing to home price increases, that accounted for about 27% of overall appreciation in municipalities that adopted legal cannabis from 2010 to 2015, according to the University of Mississippi study, published last year in Economic Inquiry.
“Our result is quite robust,” the study’s coauthor, Cheng Cheng, said in a written response to questions. “This result remains robust when we account for the impact of other common housing value determinants (e.g., housing characteristics and demographics) and of the regulation of medical marijuana.”
And the effect was still evident when they compared different municipalities within metropolitan areas, said Cheng, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Mississippi. He used a variety of data sources — including tax assessors, county records, the U.S. Census Bureau and the MLS — to arrive at his conclusions.
Colorado approved marijuana for recreational use in 2012. In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis, and voters approved recreational use in 2016. Cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, classified as a Schedule 1 drug, along with others considered ripe for abuse, such as heroin and LSD.
Cheng posits that property values get a contact high from retail marijuana because home buyers, entrepreneurs and job seekers who flood a newly legal marketplace create “unprecedented business and employment opportunities.” They’re also sparking demand within a fixed housing inventory. And he added that an injection of new tax revenue means neighborhood amenities can be upgraded, likely enticing homeowners to stay put while driving prices upward.
Other sleuths have sliced and diced Zillow’s vast real estate data to arrive at similar findings — a process that’s now relatively easy given advances in text-mining software.
Home values immediately increased once voters approved legal cannabis, long before retail shops opened, according to a Zillow analysis run by St. Louis-based Clever Real Estate, an agent referral network. The firm examined data from 2017 to 2019 in all U.S. cities.
Those that legalized recreational marijuana saw home values increase $6,337 more than in cities where pot is illegal, the study found, after controlling for population, initial home values, GDP and other variables.
“There’s an immediate bump right after legalization because investors see opportunities to go into those markets; they bring more job seekers,” said Thomas O’Shaughnessy, Clever’s head of research. A 2018 Cato Institute study observed findings similar to those unearthed by Cheng and Clever.
Cities that approved marijuana only for medical use did not experience the same value jolt as those where recreational weed is available. Instead, home prices increased at rates comparable to those in cities where all marijuana is illegal.
So it appears the commercial sale of cannabis is what stimulates home values. Washington, D.C., legalized cannabis for recreational and medical use in 2014 but barred commercial sales. Lack of a regulated citywide pot market “resulted in slower growth for the D.C. area compared to the national average,” author Luke Babich wrote in the Clever study.
Without that cash flow (sales of buds, edibles, extracts, tinctures, vape pens, branded yoga mats…), “money won’t flow back into the market and housing prices won’t respond over the long term,” Babich wrote.
Following California’s voter approval of cannabis in November 2016, “San Jose saw its sharpest historical two-year increase in home values” in two decades, a $303,200 hike, Babich noted. Of course, that entire $300K can’t be attributed to legal weed, said O’Shaughnessy, especially given Silicon Valley’s blistering housing market.
Still, (borrowing from that “Obama Kush sales copy) such increases no doubt induce a “euphoric rush” as well as some “cerebral stimulation” — at least for homeowners. For home buyers, news of pot-induced price hikes are probably a serious buzzkill.
The tectonic plates of America’s major real estate markets continue to shift beneath our feet. Little more than a year ago, unstoppable home price increases seemed to be the new normal just about everywhere. Go, go, go! It was a never-ending party for sellers, and mass anxiety for price-squeezed buyers. But then last fall came signs of a housing slowdown, as big-city prices began to level off—or in some markets actually drop. Was a housing bubble about to burst?
Well, not quite. Nationally home prices still rose 6.9% year over year in April. But here’s the thing: That’s actually the lowest price growth in five years. And according to the latest data, 1 in 5 metropolitan areas is now seeing decreases in home prices, compared with half as many a year ago. So what are the places moving from a seller’s market to a buyer’s? The realtor.com® data team set out to find those metros where home prices are falling the most.
“In a lot of markets buyers are hitting an affordability ceiling,” says Chief Economist Danielle Hale of realtor.com. “Prices just can’t keep rising if buyers can’t keep up. They are dropping out, and that’s why we’re seeing prices adjust [down] in some markets.H
There are some surprises on this list—including some of the highest-profile markets in the country (hello, San Francisco Bay Area!). It turns out there is a limit to how high home prices can go, even in some of America’s most alluring, if overheated, places.
Some markets are seeing price drops due to overbuilding: This creates too much supply and not enough demand, so prices naturally fall. And just like in past years, in other areas, natural disasters devastated lives, communities, and local real estate.
“A disaster will affect your ability to market” your home, says Orell Anderson, president of Strategic Property Analytics, in Laguna Beach, CA. It can boost home prices and rents in unaffected pockets as locals compete for housing. But it can also hurt an area’s image as folks don’t want to suffer through another disaster. “The market will demand a discount.”
To figure out where prices are down the most, we looked at the change in median list prices on realtor.com from April 2018 to April 2019 in the 250 biggest metropolitan areas.* We filtered out markets where price per square footage was up over that period. And we limited the ranking to no more than three metros per state.
So where are prices declining the most? Buckle up, let’s take a cross-country trip.
Median list price: $1.1 million Median list price change: -8.4%
Yes, you read that right. Perennial hottest market in the U.S., San Jose is seeing the steepest declines in home prices these days. For the past few years, home prices in this city at the heart of Silicon Valley have soared at double-digit rates. But last fall, red flags started to appear. Sellers began slashing list prices, with the number of price reductions jumping 200% over the previous year. Now prices are plummeting faster than anywhere else in the U.S.
Time for a quick reality check: None of this means that San Jose has become a bargain. It’s still America’s most expensive real estate market. But therein lies the problem—prices just shot up too high. From April 2017 to April 2018, median list prices soared a remarkable 28%. And even in the San Francisco Bay Area, what comes up must come down. Eventually.
“When [prices] jump that quick, it can produce a reaction with buyers, who say, ‘I can’t do it anymore, that is just too expensive,'” says Patrick Carlisle, Bay Area chief marketing analyst at the real estate firm Compass.
Federal tax law changes also played a role. Homeowners can now deduct only up to $10,000 in property and income taxes combined. Plus, the amount of mortgage interest deduction folks can write off on their taxes was reduced. In pricey areas like San Jose, that can translate into a big financial hit.
This has led dwellings to sit longer on the market, climbing from a median 19 days to 27 from April 2018 to April 2019. Meanwhile, the amount of abodes currently for sale has jumped 92%.
Median list price: $681,100 Median list price change: -5.4%
In late 2017, the Thomas fire burned almost 300,000 acres, destroying more than 1,000 homes in Ventura County, part of the Oxnard metro, and surrounding areas (including Santa Barbara County). At the time it was the largest wildfire in California history. And that was just the beginning of the widespread damage—the conflagration damaged ground soil and tree roots, leading to mudslides that wiped out still more homes.
In the disaster’s wake, some displaced victims left the area altogether instead of going through the long, painful process of rebuilding. Others who were thinking of moving to the area changed their plans altogether.
Overall rising prices in the area north of Los Angeles are also to blame. Last spring, buyers hit their breaking point, says local real estate agent Kevin Paffrath, of meetkevin.com. With high prices, mortgage rates, and the tax changes, many stayed on the sidelines, lessening demand in the area.
Median list price: $265,000 Median list price change: -5.4%
The 64,000 Texas A&M University students that pour into College Station every fall—plus all of the faculty and staff—need lots of places to live. But builders in pro-development Texas went a bit overboard in recent years. That resulted in a glut of new homes in this market two hours northwest of Houston, pushing inventory up 18.3% year over year and causing prices to tumble.
Eventually, investors are expected to snap up many of these properties and rent them out to students. But it also means buyers have options. So they can take their time finding the right one—and then negotiating the price down.
Median list price: $750,000 Median list price change: -4.9%
Prices are sky-high in this golden metro encompassing all of wealthy Fairfield County, home to some of the toniest enclaves just outside of New York City. But as in California, tax law changes made buying sprawling mansions in uber-wealthy communities such as Greenwich more expensive. That’s because the state has some of the highest property taxes in the nation—and now homeowners can’t write off nearly as much.
Plus, many of the affluent buyers who might normally head for Fairfield County may be choosing to go to Manhattan instead. That’s because the city has had an influx of new, luxury towers going up in recent years—including the flashy, massive development Hudson Yards.
Median list price: $948,300 Median list price change: -4.1%
When California home prices overheated late last year, it was no surprise that San Francisco—the second-most expensive metro in the nation, after San Jose—took a big hit.
Prices here jumped 10% from April 1, 2017, to April 1, 2018, making homeownership a steeper-than-ever climb for ordinary people. And more homes are going up for sale in lower-priced areas nearby, like Oakland, which is pulling the metro’s median list price down, says Carlisle of Compass.
But prices may soon surge again. San Francisco–based Uber and Lyft just went public, and Pinterest, Slack, Postmates, and Airbnb might soon follow suit. With all of those initial public offerings, workers could be in line for some windfalls. And what better way to spend all that money than on real estate?
“Some sellers have stopped putting their homes on the market because they want to wait for the supposed rush of [IPO] buyers,” Carlisle says.
Median list price: $481,600 Median list price change: -3.5%
The Kilauea Volcano spewed a miles-long lava stream through the Big Island of Hawaii last May. The news was plastered with images of magma tearing through Hawaiian homes, about 700 of which were destroyed. Recovery efforts are expected to cost more than $800 million.
It shattered the image of a Polynesian paradise for many foreign investors, wealthy professionals, and rich retirees drawn to Hawaii as a dreamy second-home destination. And in the months following the eruption, tourism dropped off—a huge deal for a market that relies heavily on the business.
Median list price: $300,000 Median list price change: -3.3%
Last year, a massive algae bloom turned Cape Coral’s 400-plus-mile canal system, the crown jewel of the city, into a stinking, toxic green waterway. That wasn’t exactly an inducement for buyers in this fast-growing retirement town, and real estate prices fell accordingly.
“It was smelly and ugly,” says Mike Lombardo, a local real estate agent at Old Glory Realty. “You couldn’t go to the beach because of all the algae. And you couldn’t go fishing because the algae was killing the fish. The whole [real estate] system here is built off people coming down here to enjoy the weather and beach.”
Median list price: $180,100 Median list price change: -2.9%
Located on the U.S.-Mexico border on the banks of the Rio Grande River, Laredo is one of America’s largest inland ports, with more than $200 billion in goods passing through every year. So why is this city packed with customs and border security gigs seeing home prices drop?
It boils down to overbuilding, particularly at the higher end of the market. There’s no shortage of new homes sprouting up here, which means existing homes competing for those buyers have to lower their prices.
“Homes for over $300,000 are on the market longer than usual,” says Sandra Mendiola Alaniz, local broker/owner of Re/Max Real Estate Services.
Median list price: $143,300 Median list price change: -2.3%
Huntington is a struggling metro that’s been badly affected by the opioid crisis. Many are leaving the city, on the Ohio River, for better-paying jobs and opportunities elsewhere. That means there aren’t exactly a lot of people clamoring to buy real estate, which keeps prices down.
Prices were low to begin with, so even a small decline can move the needle quite a bit. The median price here dropped $3,300—compared with $105,000 in San Jose.
Median list price: $275,000 Median list price change: -1.8%
When the polar vortex rolled into the Midwest earlier this year, it brought minus 20 degrees to Iowa, turning boiling water to ice in seconds. That rough winter meant the spring buying season got off to a very late start.
“People weren’t listing,” says Emily Farber, a Realtor at Lepic-Kroeger Realtors. “It was harder for them to take care of exterior maintenance because the weather was so atrocious.”
Plus, there wasn’t as much new construction in the cold. So other would-be sellers couldn’t find a new or trade-up home to buy—so they waited, too.
“It created a snowball effect,” says Farber. As it were.
The spring home buying market got off to a disappointing start in April, as sales sputtered and the state marked the ninth consecutive month of year-over-year sale declines, a new report Thursday shows.
The median sale price of a single-family house was unchanged in April, at $250,000, on a 5-percent decline in sales, according to the monthly report from The Warren Group, which tracks real estate trends in New England.
Sales closed in April typically would have gone under contract 45-60 days earlier, right around the traditional start of the spring homebuying season.
Through the first four months of this year, sales are down nearly 7 percent, compared with the same period in 2018. In the same period, the median sale price fell 1.2 percent, to $240,000, compared with $243,000 for the same four-month period last year.
Hartford County’s home sale market did better than the state as a whole in April. Sales were flat, but the median sale price crept up 1.4 percent to $223,000 from $219,000 for the same month a year ago.
Across all the state’s eight counties, all but Hartford, Litchfield and Middlesex counties saw year-over-year sale declines in April. The deepest decline was registered in New London County, down 16.6 percent compared with April of 2018.
The statewide median sale price was pulled down by declines in Fairfield, Tolland and Windham counties. Price gains in the other five counties — the highest being a 11-percent year-over-year rise in Middlesex County — were not strong enough to lift the overall median price to an increase.
So far in 2019, the four-month trend for sales and prices paid is disappointing for the state’s housing market, which has struggled to recover from the last recession, which ended in March 2010. There were hopeful signs in 2018 when Connecticut registered its third consecutive annual gain in median sale price. The velocity of sales remain a concern, however, failing to show upward momentum.
The median sale price is a well-watched indicator of changes in sale prices and trends affecting property values. But it doesn’t necessarily mean all home prices and values, for that matter, are moving in the same direction.