Sales of new U.S. single-family homes fell from near an 11-1/2-year high in April as prices rebounded, but demand for housing remains underpinned by declining mortgage rates and a strengthening labor market.FILE PHOTO: A new apartment building housing construction site is seen in Los Angeles, California, U.S. July 30, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
The Commerce Department said on Thursday new home sales dropped 6.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 673,000 units last month. March’s sales pace was revised up to 723,000 units, the highest level since October 2007, from the previously reported 692,000 units.
April’s decline followed three straight monthly increases
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast new home sales, which account for about 10% of housing market sales, would decrease 2.8% to a pace of 675,000 units in April.
Sales increased 7.0% from a year ago. The median new house price increased 8.8% from a year ago to $342,200 in April, the highest level since December 2017.
New home sales had in recent months outperformed other housing market indicators, including building permits, which had dropped for five straight months in April. New home sales are drawn from permits.
Economists attributed the recent strength in new home sales to declining mortgage rates. The new housing market has not been severely constrained by an inventory shortage, which has crippled sales of previously owned homes.
A report on Tuesday showed existing home sales fell for a second straight month in April, weighed down by a chronic shortage of more affordable houses.
The overall housing market hit a soft patch year and has contracted for five straight quarters. With the 30-year fixed mortgage rate dropping to around 4.07% from near an eight-year high of 4.94% in November, there is reason to be cautiously optimistic about the housing market.
New home sales in the South, which accounts for the bulk of transactions, declined 7.3% in April. Sales in the Midwest dropped 7.4% and those in the West tumbled 8.3%. But sales in the Northeast jumped 11.5%.
There were 332,000 new homes on the market last month, down 0.9% from March. While builders have stepped up construction of more affordable homes to meet strong demand in this market segment, land and labor shortages remain a challenge.
At April’s sales pace it would take 5.9 months to clear the supply of houses on the market, up from 5.6 months in March.
The French architecture studio showed off its design to turn the damaged roof of the cathedral into a giant greenhouse, complete with an apiary that takes the place of the spire. (some 180,000 bees that had been kept in wooden boxes on the cathedral’s roof survived the fire). The renderings show a gabled roof perched atop the stately church; its golden-hued steel frame is filled with glass panels.
Inside, the architects envision rows of planters built from burnt wood from the old church’s attic. The greenhouse and apiary would act as an education hub where people can learn about horticulture and urban agriculture.
U.S. home sales fell in January to their lowest level in more than three years and house prices rose only modestly, suggesting a further loss of momentum in the housing market.
The National Association of Realtors said on Thursday existing home sales dropped 1.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.94 million units last month.
That was the lowest level since November 2015 and well below analysts’ expectations of a rate of 5.0 million units. December’s sales pace was revised slightly higher.
The drop in January came after months of weakness in the U.S. housing market. Existing home sales were down 8.5 percent from a year ago.
The U.S. housing market has been stymied by a sharp rise in mortgage rates since 2016 as well as land and labor shortages. That has led to tight inventory and more expensive homes.
At the same time, the 30-year fixed mortgage rate has dipped in recent months and house price inflation is slowing.
The median existing house price increased 2.8 percent from a year ago to $247,500 in January. That was the smallest increase since February 2012.
Last month, existing home sales fell in three of the country’s four major regions, rising only in the Northeast.
There were 1.59 million previously owned homes on the market in January, up from 1.53 million in December.
At January’s sales pace, it would take 3.9 months to exhaust the current inventory, up from 3.7 months in December. A supply of six to seven months is viewed as a healthy balance between supply and demand.
It’s the trillion-dollar question that everyone’s looking for an answer for. What’s housing going to do next year?
Earlier this week, we took a look at Zillow’s 2019 forecast, which stated that mortgage interest rates are going to keep rising next year, which will drive an increase in rents as people hold off on home buying.
But how much of an impact will that really have? Zillow’s sister company, Trulia, provides an answer in the form of its own 2019 forecast, which is backed up by some interesting survey data.
Trulia contracted The Harris Poll to ask 2,021 U.S. adults, ages 18 and older, earlier this month how they felt about housing right now and in the future.
And the results of the survey show that people want to buy a house, but they may not be able to afford it right now thanks to a combination of rising rates and rising home prices.
The bad news is that it’s likely only going to get worse in 2019.
According to Trulia, worsening housing affordability will slow down home buying activity next year.
“Over the past several years, home price growth has largely outpaced income growth, making for an increasingly unaffordable home-buying environment,” Trulia noted in its report.
“And next year, even as growth in home prices cools, limited supply will continue to help push prices up to some degree,” Trulia continued. “The financial impediments of homeownership are acutely felt among renters who wish to buy: 53% say that saving enough for a down payment is the number one obstacle to homeownership, while 36% cite rising home prices.”
Another issue, as stated before, are rising interest rates, which are projected to continue climbing in 2019. According to Trulia, rates will rise throughout the year, eventually reaching 10-year highs.
And that’s going to hurt renters who want to become homebuyers.
“Mortgage rates on 30-year, fixed rate loans have been less than 5% since the end of the recession, helping to buoy housing demand and keep monthly payments relatively cheap even as prices themselves rose,” Trulia said in its report. “But those record-low rates will come to an end in 2019. Rising mortgage rates will take a bite out of affordability on top of an already supply-constrained and high-priced housing market.”
According to Trulia, nearly 20% of renters who want to buy say that rising interest rates are their biggest obstacle to buying a home, which is up from 13% who made that claim back in April when interest rates were lower than they are now.
Also impacting potential buyers is “tight” nationwide housing inventory.
“Inventory has fallen almost non-stop for the past several years, and while several pricey coastal California markets saw an increase the number of for-sale starter and trade-up homes last quarter, they’re likely to be the exception and not the rule,” Trulia said.
“And even if inventory begins to pick up in more markets, it will be rising from multi-year lows and will take a long while to get back to a more balanced level between buyers and sellers,” Trulia continued. “With the construction industry facing significant headwinds from the higher cost of materials and labor as well as rising interest rates, we do not expect much if any growth in new construction starts in 2019 to help alleviate inventory woes.”
Despite all of that, Trulia expects more Millennials to become first-time homebuyers in 2019.
“Younger Americans will continue to drive homeownership. After dropping to multi-decade lows in the years following the recession, the national homeownership rate is steadily rising and is currently at the same level it was in 2014,” Trulia said.
“The largest gains in homeownership rates in recent years were among those under 35 years old,” Trulia concluded. “And more of these younger Americans say they intend to buy a home soon. Of Americans aged 18 to 34, 21% say they plan to buy within the next 12 months, up from 14% last year.”
Johanna Lasser had lived in a dozen apartments before she bought her first house two years ago, a rundown Victorian in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. Ms. Lasser and her husband, Jimm, figured they would fix it up, stay a few years and then move on to a house in the suburbs, or one in a better school district, as many people do.
It didn’t take long for that plan to stop making sense.
“Once you’ve got all that work done, where would we go in the city except to another place that somebody had just fixed up?” said Ms. Lasser, 40, a stay-at-home mother who’s pregnant with her second child. “We’d just be switching apples for apples.”
Ms. and Mr. Lasser, 43, a filmmaker, are not the only homeowners with doubts about moving these days. Americans have been moving less over the years, with only 11 percent changing households in 2017, down from 13 percent in 2007, according to United States census data. Historically, we stayed in our homes for around six years; now we’re now staying for 10, according the National Association of Realtors.
The mood is affecting how we live in our homes and where we spend our money. More than three quarters of the respondents to an October Zillow survey, for example, reported that, given the option, they’d rather spend a lump sum of money renovating their current home than on a down payment for a new one.
What happens, though, when the home you think is your starter house becomes your forever house?
As first-time home buyers, we often cobble together what we have for a down payment with the expectation that in five years (because, face it, we like to believe that life operates on an endless loop of five-year plans) we’ll upgrade to something larger, or in better condition, or in a better neighborhood. Realizing that we may not actually be able to move runs counter to an American ideal that there’s always a better version of our lives a few pay raises away.
“We are restless people, we like to feel like we could move at any time. If you think of your house as your starter home, you know you can just leave,” said Melody Warnick, the author of “This Is Where You Belong: Finding Home Wherever You Are.” “That’s a belief that we cherish because it gives us a sense of freedom.”
But increasingly, the math doesn’t work and we find that we’re not so free to go.
A brew of short- and long-term trends has led us to this moment. Millennials, saddled with student debt, are buying their first homes later in life, and so are less likely to move again. Inventory is tight (largely because homeowners aren’t moving), home prices are high, and interest rates are rising.
Added to that, the 2017 federal tax overhaul capped the mortgage interest deduction at $750,000 and limited sales and local tax deductions to $10,000 a year, making it less desirable for owners in high-tax states like New York to buy a home with a jumbo mortgage or a giant property-tax bill.
In short, if you were lucky enough to lock in a historically low interest rate, whatever you buy today will cost you more than it did just a few months ago. The Lassers, for example, pay roughly $12,000 a year in property taxes for the six-bedroom house that they bought for $1.475 million in 2016. But if they decided to move to the suburbs, their property taxes would likely be higher, and if they bought a house priced at or more than what they paid for their current home, their monthly mortgage payments would be substantially higher at current interest rates.
“With our next purchase, we will have less buying power,” Ms. Lasser said. After the couple finishes bringing the house back to its original glory — a $350,000 project that will involve restoring the original exterior and interior details, gut renovating four of the six bathrooms and renovating the kitchen — she doubts they’ll actually want to leave.
“If you’ve gone through one remodel, I don’t think you ever want to do it again,” she said. “And where would we go?”
Companies such as Fusion Exteriors provide various services all the way from free estimation on all the work to professionals who ensure perfection in every task they perform.
Now, rather than scrolling Zillow listings, the couple is paying closer attention to their neighborhood schools, a detail they had overlooked when they bought the place because they figured they’d be gone by the time their daughter, now 4, was old enough for elementary school. “We were not at all prepared for her being in elementary or middle school in the city,” she said.
There are upsides to abandoning the idea of the next house. People who have lived in one place for a long time report feeling better, healthier and more content, according to Ms. Warnick. “Imagine if you channeled some of that restless energy into building strong relationships with people in your neighborhood or planning the block party?” she said.
But if you bought your home during one life stage, it may not necessarily fit so well with the next one.
Mary Botel, 38, bought a 750-square foot bungalow in Portland, Ore., in 2011 for $100,000, when she was single. At the time, she thought it was a good deal and a great place to live for a few years. Seven years later, she is married and now shares the tiny space with her husband, Blaine Botel, 35, and his teenage son. The quarters are tight, requiring the family to pare down on their possessions and stay organized. “Everything now has to have a place,” she said.
Initially the neighborhood was rough — her car was stolen once and so were her boots, snatched off the front porch in the middle of winter. But as the economy improved, so too did the neighborhood. Now apartments in the rental building next door rent for about $1,400 a month, substantially more than Mrs. Botel’s mortgage payments. “If we were to move today, even if we sold, our money wouldn’t go very far,” said Mrs. Botel, who works for Multnomah County, Ore.
Interest rates and low inventory caused home sales to fall in September, but Realtors expect housing conditions to improve over the next six months.
The Buyer Traffic Index decreased to 51 in September, down from 61 in September 2017, according to the National Association of Realtors Confidence Index.
The index gathers monthly information from Realtors about local real estate market conditions, characteristics of buyers and sellers and issues affecting homeownership and real estate transactions. An index of more than 50 indicates an expectation of improvement.
The Seller Traffic Index also decreased, falling to 41 in September, down from 45 in September 2017, according to NAR.
However, despite these decreases, Realtors expect that, over the next six months, conditions will improve for the single-family housing market. The Confidence Index – Six-Month Outlook Current Conditions came in at 53 in September.
The same can’t be said for other housing markets. For example, the index for townhomes came in at 44, and 43 for condominium properties.
When asked about major issues affecting housing transactions in September, Realtors answered that low inventory and interest rates were the most common issues.
But while Realtors may be optimistic about the future, some economists disagree.
“Our expectations for housing have become more pessimistic: Rising interest rates and declining housing sentiment from both consumers and lenders led us to lower our home sales forecast over the duration of 2018 and through 2019,” Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan said.
Most experts expect one final rate hike in December 2018 and another two or three rate hikes in 2019. These rising rates will only continue to push potential homebuyers out of the market.
In fact, recent data from NAR showed that existing home sales hit their lowest level in three years, and Freddie Mac data shows interest rates are currently at a 10-year high. Now, these factors could be pushing more families to rent instead of buying a home.
Despite the difficult conditions, some home buyers managed to increase their share. First-time buyers accounted for 32% of sales in September, up from 29% in September last year.
U.S. home sales fell in September by the most in over two years as the housing market continued to struggle despite strength across the broader economy.
The National Association of Realtors said on Friday that existing home sales dropped 3.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.15 million units last month.
Home sales have now fallen for six straight months. A dearth of properties for sale has pushed up prices, sidelining many would-be homeowners. Sales dropped the most in the South and the decline in the West left sales there down 12.2 percent from a year earlier.
NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said the overall decline appeared related to a rise in interest rates.
Supply has also been constrained by rising building material costs as well as land and labor shortages, while rising mortgage rates are expected to slow demand.
The Federal Reserve raised borrowing costs in September for the third time this year and is widely expected to hike rates again in December.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast existing home sales falling to 5.30 million from a previously reported 5.34 million. Existing home sales make up about 90 percent of U.S. home sales.
There were 1.88 million homes on the market in September, an increase of 1.1 percent from a year ago.
At September’s sales pace, it would take 4.4 months to clear the current inventory. A supply of six to seven months is viewed as a healthy balance between supply and demand.
The median house price increased 4.2 percent from one year ago to $258,100 in September.
Here’s the other side of central-bank engineered asset price inflation, or “healing the housing market,” as it’s called in a more politically correct manner:
San Francisco Unified school district, which employs about 3,300 teachers, has been hobbled by a teacher shortage. Despite intense efforts this year – including a signing bonus – to bring in 619 new teachers to fill the gaps left behind by those who’d retired or resigned, the district is short 38 teachers as of Monday, when the school year started. Others school districts in the Bay Area have similar problems.
For teachers, the math doesn’t work out. Average teacher pay for the 2014-15 school year was $65,000. And less after taxes. But the median annual rent was $42,000 for something close to a one-bedroom apartment. After taxes and utilities, there’s hardly any money left for anything else.
A teacher who has lived in the same rent-controlled apartment for umpteen years may still be OK. But teachers who need to find a place, such as new teachers or those who’ve been subject of a no-fault eviction, are having trouble finding anything they can afford in the city. So they pack up and leave in the middle of the school year, leaving classes without teachers. It has gotten so bad that the Board of Supervisors decided in April to ban no-fault evictions of teachers during the school year.
Yet renting, as expensive as it is in San Francisco, is the cheaper option. Teachers trying to buy a home in San Francisco are in even more trouble at current prices. And it’s not just teachers!
This aspect of Ben Bernanke’s and now Janet Yellen’s asset price inflation – and consumer price inflation for those who have to pay for housing – is what everyone here calls “The Housing Crisis.”
As if to drive home the point, so to speak, the California Association of Realtors just released itsHousing Affordability Index (HAI) for the second quarter. It is based on the median house price (only houses, not condos), prevailing mortgage interest rate, household income, and a 20% down payment.
In San Francisco, the median house price – half sell for more, half sell for less – is $1.37 million. According to Paragon Real Estate, if condos were included, the median price would drop to $1.2 million.
The median household income in San Francisco is $84,160, including households with more than one earner. So a household of two teachers with $130,000 in household income is doing pretty well, comparatively speaking.
The monthly mortgage payment for the median house in San Francisco, after a 20% down payment and at the prevailing rock-bottom mortgage rates, is $6,740 per month, or $80,900 per year!
So what kind of minimum qualifying household income would be required for the mortgage of a median house, plus taxes and insurance? For the US on average, $47,200 per year. In San Francisco, $269,600 per year. It would require a household of four teacher salaries!
Only the top-earning 13% of households in San Francisco can afford to buy that median house!
Other Bay Area counties have similar out-of-whack affordability rates: In San Mateo County (part of Silicon Valley), only 14% can buy that median home; in Marin County (north of the Golden Gate) 18%; Santa Clara Country (where San Jose is) 19%; Alameda County (where Oakland is) 20%. And so on.
And this despite the historically low mortgage rates. If prevailing mortgage rates rose to 6%, practically no one could afford to buy.
Then there’s the issue of down payment that the CAR so elegantly glosses over: the 20% down payment of for that median house in San Francisco is $275,000!
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
How are people going to save $275,000 after taxes while living and renting in a city that is as pocket-cleaning expensive as San Francisco? Saving $275,000 on a median household income of $84,160 while paying $42,000 a year in rent, plus taxes, utilities, food, transportation, clothes, parking tickets…..
Saving anything is going to be tough. But even if that household, using herculean discipline, can save 5% of its income a year (so $4,200 a year), it would take 65 years to save that down payment. Oh well. There goes the dream.
These are a scary numbers for the housing market! If only 13% can buy that median home – when in a healthier housing market, over 50% should be able to buy a median home – who the heck is going to buy the rest of the homes?
This puts a stranglehold on demand. To sustain these crazy home prices, San Francisco needs to bring in an endless flow of highly paid people, including absentee foreign investors, to replace the teachers and other middle-class households, the artists and shop keepers and office workers, and to push out city employees, nurses, and the like. That’s how the process has worked.
But that endless influx of highly paid people and investors is grinding to a halt. Some companies are still hiring, but others are laying off, and highly paid workers are just switching jobs rather than pouring into the city in large numbers. That’s a sea change for this housing market.
It comes at a time when a historic building boom is throwing thousands of high-end condos and apartments on the market every year, for years to come.
30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.43 percent with an average 0.5 point for the week ending August 4, 2016, down from last week when it averaged 3.48 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.91 percent.
15-year FRM this week averaged 2.74 percent with an average 0.5 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.78 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.13 percent.
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.
Quote Attributed to Sean Becketti, chief economist, Freddie Mac.
“Treasury yields fell last week following both the FOMC’s meeting and a disappointing advance estimate for second quarter GDP. Mortgage rates, which had moved up 7 basis points over the past three weeks, responded by erasing most of those gains, falling 5 basis points to 3.43 percent this week for the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. Mortgage rates have been below 3.5 percent every week since June 30. Borrowers are taking advantage of these low rates by refinancing. The latest Weekly Applications Survey results from the Mortgage Bankers Association show refinance activity up 55 percent since last year.”
The proportion of U.S. households that own homes has matched its lowest level in 51 years — evidence that rising property prices, high rents and stagnant pay have made it hard for many to buy.
Just 62.9 percent of households owned a home in the April-June quarter this year, a decrease from 63.4 percent 12 months ago, the Census Bureau said Thursday. The share of homeowners now equals the rate in 1965, when the census began tracking the data.
The trend appears most pronounced among millennial households, ages 18 to 34, many of whom are straining under the weight of rising apartment rents and heavy student debt. Their homeownership rate fell 0.7 percentage point over the past year to 34.1 percent. That decline may reflect, in part, more young adults leaving their parents’ homes for rental apartments.
The overall decline appears to be due largely to the increased formation of rental households, said Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist at the real estate site Trulia. McLaughlin cautioned, though, that the decrease in homeownership from a year ago was not statistically significant.
America added nearly a million households over the past year and all of them were renters. Home ownership has declined even as the housing market has been recovering from the 2007 bust that triggered the Great Recession. Ownership peaked at 69.2 percent at the end of 2004.
Home prices have been steadily outpacing gains in average earnings. This has made it harder for first-time buyers to save for down payments, thereby delaying their ability to purchase a home.
The median home sales price was $247,700 in June, up 4.8 percent from a year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors. That increase is roughly double the pace of average hourly wage gains.