Existing home sales increased 1.1% in May, and 55% of homes sold last month were on the market less than a month as buyers overcame low inventory and higher prices. Although May inventory increased 2.1%, it remains 8.4% lower than a year ago and fell year-over-year for the 24th consecutive month. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported that at the current sales rate, the May unsold inventory represents a 4.2-month supply, down from a 4.7-month supply a year ago. May existing sales were up 2.7% from the same month a year ago, and reached a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.62 million compared to a downwardly revised 5.56 million in April. Total existing home sales include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops.
May existing sales increased 6.8% in the Northeast, 3.4% in the West and 22% in the South, but declined 5.9% in the Midwest. Year-over-year, the South was up 4.5%, the West by 3.4% and the Northeast by 2.7%, while only the Midwest was down slightly.
Homes stayed on the market for only 27 days in May, compared to 29 days in April, and 32 days a year ago. The May timeframe was the shortest in the history of that series which began in May 2011. The May first-time home buyer share was 33%, down from 34% in April, but up from 30% in May a year ago.
The May all-cash sales share increased to 22% from 21% in April, and was unchanged from a year ago. Individual investors purchased a 16% share in May, up from 15% in April, and up from 13% a year ago. Some 64% of investors paid cash in May, up from 57% of investors in April.
The May median sales price jumped 5.8% from last year to $252,800, representing the 63rd consecutive month of year-over-year increases. The May median condominium/co-op price of $238,700 was up 4.8% from the same month a year ago.
April pending sales dipped for the second consecutive month, so the May bump in existing sales was good news. New home sales have grown 11.3% this year, and both jobs and incomes continue to grow, suggesting an improving market for new single-family construction.
Once an attic used for storage, this two-bedroom, two-bathroom, roughly 2,500-square-foot space was converted into an apartment around 1970 and last renovated in 2013. It is on the seventh and eighth floors of a 1915 building with seven units on a quiet street in Ostermalm, a fashionable neighborhood just east of Stockholm’s city center.
The apartment has crisp white walls, oak floors, high ceilings and a terrace overlooking nearby rooftops. The front door opens onto a hallway that leads to a family room with a balcony and a staircase up to the main living area. The large upstairs living room has built-in bookshelves and large sliding doors opening onto a terrace. Up several steps to the left of the living room is a television room; on the right is an office with a skylight. Both the office and the family room downstairs could be used as bedrooms, said Jan Lundqvist, a broker with Residence, the Swedish real estate firm and Christie’s affiliate that has the listing.
Past the living room are the kitchen and dining area. A small hall leads to two bedrooms. One, the master suite, has a generous walk-in closet and an adjoining laundry room. As is typical in Sweden’s older homes, Mr. Lundqvist said, the bedrooms share a bathroom. (A second bathroom is on the same floor near the entrance, by the stair landing.)
The building’s amenities include bike storage, a parking garage and a communal wine cellar in the basement. Restaurants, tennis courts, parks with jogging trails and public transit are all within walking distance. The Stockholm Arlanda Airport is about a half-hour drive.
Home prices in Sweden have increased sharply since the 2008 global financial crisis, driven by the combination of a strong economy, low mortgage rates, a chronic housing shortage and rapid population growth, specifically an influx of refugees and others moving to urban centers for jobs and schools. But even during the recession Sweden’s real estate market didn’t suffer much, thanks to the shortage of housing and the swift countermeasures taken by the government and central bank, said Olof Manner, head of research for Swedbank, a financial services group based in Stockholm.
Prices are now about 50 percent higher than they were in 2008, he said. “I don’t think we have a bubble,” he said of the market. “But it’s very richly priced.”
Recently, however, the price increases have been slowing, Mr. Manner said. In 2015, prices rose 15 percent over the previous year; in 2016, that number fell to 10 percent. Home prices are now 7 percent higher than they were at this time last year, he said.
He attributed this to several factors: Banks have become stricter about mortgage applicants’ debt-to-income ratios; the government recently changed its mortgage amortization rules to require faster repayment schedules on new loans; fixed mortgage rates have risen slightly; and the novelty of the low rates has worn off.
A continuing challenge, he added, is that there aren’t enough new homes being built to meet demand, and the ones that are built don’t suit the refugee population’s need for small, affordable units.
Elisabeth Hallberg, a broker and manager with Per Jansson, a luxury real estate agency in Stockholm, said it’s a seller’s market. “The problem for the real estate agent is not to find buyers; it’s to find sellers,” she said, estimating that about 70 percent of the transactions she worked on in the past year have had multiple offers, and many had received an offer before the first open house.
The most desirable areas in the city, agents said, are Djurgarden, a parklike area with well-appointed villas, and Ostermalm, where this apartment is. Lars Fogelklou, the chief executive and a founder of Residence, said that in Djurgarden, high-end apartments can sell for between 20 million Swedish krona ($2,312,640) and 100 million Swedish krona ($11,563,200). Agents said prices in Ostermalm range from between 3 million Swedish krona ($346,896) and 10 million ($1,156,320) at the lower end, and up to around 70 million Swedish krona ($8,094,240) or 80 million ($9,250,550) at the higher end, with a few properties reaching 100 million Swedish krona ($11,563,200).
WHO BUYS IN STOCKHOLM
Most of Stockholm’s luxury home buyers are Swedish, some of them Swedes returning from abroad, agents said.
Ms. Hallberg estimated that about 20 percent of her clients are from Switzerland, Germany, the United States, Britain and France. Over the past year, Mr. Fogelklou said, a few of his clients (about 5 percent) have been from China, Germany and the United States; a much larger share (about 40 percent) were expats returning to Sweden.
There are no restrictions on foreigners buying property in Sweden, said Jonas Bergquist, a Stockholm-based partner with Magnusson, a law firm with offices in the Baltic region and Scandinavia.
The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas in the US rose 5.9 percent year-on-year in March of 2017, the same as in February and above market expectations of following a 5.7 percent gain. Prices rose the most in Seattle (12.3 percent), Portland (9.2 percent) and Dallas (8.6 percent). Meanwhile, the national index, covering all nine US census divisions rose 5.8 percent, up from 5.7 percent in February and setting a 33-month high. Case Shiller Home Price Index in the United States averaged 158.44 Index Points from 2000 until 2017, reaching an all time high of 206.52 Index Points in July of 2006 and a record low of 100 Index Points in January of 2000.
The National Association of Home Builders’ Multifamily Production Index (MPI) increased two points to 55 in the fourth quarter of 2016. For five straight years, the MPI has been at or above 50, which indicates that more respondents report conditions are improving than report conditions are getting worse (Figure 1).
Figure 1: NAHB Multifamily Production Index (MPI) and Multifamily Starts (in thousands)
The MPI is a composite measure of three key segments of the multifamily housing market: construction of low-rent units, market-rate rental units and “for-sale” units, or condominiums. In the fourth quarter, low-rent units remained unchanged at 54 while market-rate rental units rose one point to 58 and for-sale units increased three points to 53.
The Multifamily Vacancy Index (MVI), which measures the multifamily housing industry’s perception of vacancies, remained unchanged at 42, with lower numbers indicating fewer vacancies (Figure 2).
Figure 2: NAHB Multifamily Vacancy Index (MVI) and 5+ Rental Vacancy Rate
After peaking at 70 in the second quarter of 2009, the MVI improved consistently through 2010 and has been fairly stable since 2011. Historically, the MVI has shown to be a leading indicator of Census multifamily vacancy rates, which is displayed in Figure 2 as well.
In 2015, a total of 1,762 homes were started for sale with a price of $1 million or more according to the Census Bureau’s Survey of Construction. New homes started for sale with a price of $ 1 million or more decreased as a share in absolute number in 2015. That number was significantly lower than in 2013 (3,347 homes) and 2014 (3,019). Previous posts have discussed the upward trend in the median and average size of new single-family homes and how part of this is likely due to a historically atypical mix of buyers in the market.
In 2005, the number of new homes at this price reached a peak of 5,647 units. In the boom year of 2006, 4,966 new homes started were million dollar homes built for sale. In 2007, only 2,449 such homes were started followed by 1,028 homes in 2008. From 2009 to 2012, fewer than 1,000 of these $1 million+ homes were started every year.
The red-hot growth in home prices across the U.S. West is starting to slow in some cities as sticker shock and low inventory put off weary buyers.
Denver, Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, have seen gains in real estate values moderate after years of double-digit increases, according to Zillow. A slowdown in the tech epicenter of San Francisco is becoming even more pronounced, with the median home value in August rising less than 1 percent from a year earlier.
The five-year surge in real estate demand across the West is starting to take its toll in some areas as buyers become more reluctant to purchase a home that would eat up a large chunk of their monthly earnings. With job growth still robust, house hunters are pushing outward from core cities to get more for their money.
“Homebuyers are starting to see a bit of price fatigue and are starting to step back and think twice about making that purchase,” said Svenja Gudell, chief economist at Seattle-based Zillow. “Prices have grown so much over the last few years as part of the recovery that many markets are well beyond their initial 2006 or 2007 peak, so homes are now more expensive than they’ve ever been.”
Western cities have led the nation’s recovery from last decade’s recession with record-setting economic growth and a boom in jobs, particularly in the technology industry, leading to a surge in housing demand. In the past five years, home values have soared 71 percent in Denver, 66 percent in San Francisco and 54 percent in Austin, Zillow data show. Nationwide, the gain was 22 percent.
The prices have gotten too heated for many buyers in Denver, which has seen a slowdown since the beginning of the year, said Wade Perry, a managing broker at Coldwell Banker Devonshire in the area.
“Buyers are starting to push back and say, ‘I’m not going to pay that much for that house,’” Perry said.
The median home value in Denver rose 10 percent in August from a year earlier to $353,300, according to Zillow. While that’s still one of the top increases in the country, it’s down from an almost 16 percent surge in the same period of 2015.
In Austin, which, like Denver, has benefited in part from a spreading tech industry and an influx of well-paid workers, the median climbed 8.1 percent, compared with 12 percent growth a year earlier. Los Angeles’s growth slowed to 6.9 percent from 7.5 percent, while in San Diego it decelerated to 4 percent from 6.3 percent.
For San Francisco, where the median home value has soared to $1.1 million, the increase was just 0.6 percent after a 15 percent jump in August 2015. The city’s price gains have made it the most overvalued housing market in the U.S., UBS Group AG said in a report this week.
Still, there’s no let-up in some other Western tech-heavy markets, such as Portland, Oregon, where home values soared 20 percent in August, compared with 13 percent a year earlier. In Seattle, the 15 percent gain outpaced the roughly 14 percent increase the year before.
Nationwide, the median home value climbed 5.1 percent in August — up from 4.6 percent a year earlier.
A slowdown in home-price appreciation would be a healthy change, said Patrick Carlisle, chief marketing analyst at Paragon Real Estate Group in San Francisco.
“The cooling of a desperately overheated housing market to something closer to normal is not bad news,” he said. “The huge increases in housing prices have created enormous social stresses in the area, as well as leading some of our local high-tech companies and would-be startups to look at locating elsewhere.”
The overheated markets are pushing some buyers to shift their house hunt to the suburbs, fueling faster appreciation in outlying areas than in the neighboring boom cities, Zillow data show. In the Denver suburb of Arvada, for instance, the median home value in August soared 13 percent from a year earlier. It jumped almost 14 percent in Englewood, a short light-rail ride from downtown.
Ben and Nicole Irwin began looking for homes in the area last year and soon discovered the Denver properties they liked cost $500,000 to $600,000. The couple ended up paying $390,000 for a three-bedroom house in Arvada, where they were attracted to good public schools, a charming old town and the city’s proximity to the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, a popular outdoor concert venue.
“To get the size house we wanted, it would have been out of our price range,” said Ben Irwin, a 37-year-old communications manager for the city of Boulder. “We found that we could get those kinds of houses for $150,000 to $200,000 less” outside of Denver.
In Austin, where home prices are higher but sales are down, surrounding towns “have seen incredible appreciation” as buyers seek out affordability in the city’s outskirts, said Dave Murray, a broker at DMTX Realty.
Americans’ overall confidence in the U.S. housing market has declined from a year ago, according to the January 2016 Zillow Housing Confidence Index, driven lower by diminished expectations of the market’s future.
The overall U.S. Housing Confidence Index fell to 66.9 in January from 67.4 a year ago according to the Zillow Housing Confidence Index, sponsored by Zillow and calculated by Pulsenomics LLC.
However, expectations for the year ahead fell even more, from 69.9 in 2015 to 67.5 this year, a decline of 3.4%. Homeowners near term expectations fell 3.5 percent, from 74.1 to 71.8 but renters lost even more confidence. Among renters, expectations for 2016 compared to 2015 fell from 63.9 to 60.8, or 4.8 percent.
The results come at a time when rising rents and stagnant incomes are making it tough for many Americans to buy homes. Millennials are renting longer than past generations as they put off major life decisions. Those aged 18-34 said they expected home values to grow by 5 percent per year, on average, over the next ten years, compared to just 3.7 percent for all Americans.
The survey found that overall aspirations for homeownership are at their highest level in two years, driven in large part by faith among younger Americans and Americans-of-color in the general value of homeownership. Among people 18-34 years old, 65 percent said homeownership and the American Dream go hand-in-hand, more than any other generation. Of Hispanic respondents surveyed, 70 percent agreed that owning their own home is necessary to live the American Dream, followed by 64 percent of Asian respondents and 63 percent of black respondents. Less than 60 percent of white respondents agreed.
The semi-annual Zillow Housing Confidence Index, sponsored by Zillow and calculated by Pulsenomics LLC, is calculated for the U.S. as a whole and 20 large metro markets nationwide. It is based on a national survey of 10,000 American renters and homeowners. The ZHCI is composed of three sub-indexes: one that summarizes homeowner and renter assessments of current market conditions (HMCI); another that measures their expectations regarding future home values and affordability (HEI); and a third that gauges their aspirations and attitudes regarding homeownership (HAI).
For 43-year-old Giuia Abano Grady, who lives in Gorham, Maine, and raises pigs and chickens and will soon raise cows, the work needed to prepare her 250-year-old farmhouse for the winter isn’t as easy as just disconnecting a garden hose.
Besides turning off all the exterior water lines and draining her garden’s irrigation system, she seals the doors and windows in her basement with plastic sheeting. Outside doors in the 1730’s-era home get wrapped with insulation and plastic, and her basement gets several space heaters set on low to prevent pipes from freezing. Exterior water lines must be wrapped in heat tape and even her barn’s water supply needs a heating line to keep it from icing up, she says.
The preparations were needed, as in January of 2015 nearly 8 feet of snow fell in a little over a month. Thanks to her and her husband’s efforts, her only crisis last winter was a frozen pipe. “An hour with a hair dryer and it was all fixed,” she says.
Fortunately for the rest of us, winter preparations may be as simple as installing an insulating cover to protect your outside faucets and prevent a burst pipe and flooding. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore Old Man Winter’s freezing breath.
Indeed, the National Weather Service is predicting one of the worst snowstorms in years could be hitting the Northeast later this week, with up to two feet of snow expected between Washington, D.C., New York and Boston from mid-Friday into Sunday, along with coastal flooding. Already a blizzard watch is in effect with heavy snow and wind gusts of 40 mph and temperatures in West Virginia, and the Washington, D.C. region, dropping into the 20s Fahrenheit.
Life vests carried aboard airliners have never saved a life. WSJ’s Scott McCartney joins Lunch Break with Tanya Rivero and explains why regulators still require they be carried on planes.
Last year’s winter season saw the second-coldest winter on record for the Northeast region, and for eight individual states — New York, Pennsylvania and all six New England states.
Here are some helpful tips on preparing your home for winter from real-estate broker Re/Max of New Jersey and utilities the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Fire Administration and the National Weather Service.
Repair all broken windows, exterior doors and walls and tightly close doors and windows to the outside. Make sure the outside doors and walls are well insulated. Seal all air leaks in crawl spaces and basements. If your vents won’t close, cover them from the inside with insulation, cardboard, plastic or newspaper, WSSC says.
Your attic should be properly insulated and ventilated to circulate the heat throughout the attic. This prevents ice from building up in certain areas and preventing major damage to your roof, Re/Max of New Jersey says.
Check your roof. Small leaks can turn into bigger leaks if snow sits on your roof…and then melts. Getting your roof coated before the winter can help to prevent leaks from trickling into your home and hoping the leak doesn’t spring up where you house valuable electronics. In addition, clean your home’s gutters as they are its first line of defense against water damage.
Homes with flat roofs are more vulnerable to having snow collect on the roof. Have a good roofer on call that is able to come out and remove large amounts of snow before it turns to ice or your roof buckles under its weight. Be careful on ladders when removing snow and have a second person hold the ladder if it’s more than two stories. It’s worth paying the $100 to $300 costs to remove snow, rather than pay the costs of a collapsed roof, which could cost thousands of dollars.
To help prevent the possibility of a burst pipe inside your home, install a pipe insulation sleeve to protect exposed pipes inside your home. Cover all parts of the pipes — even the joints — and seal them with duct tape. This will help keep your home energy efficient and helps reduce your chances of a pipe bursting and flooding your home. If a pipe does freeze, open the cold and/or hot water faucet nearest the frozen pipe, WSSC says. This will relieve the pressure and reduce the chance of breakage. Take a tip from Giuia Abano Grady and use a hand-held dryer if you attempt to thaw out the pipe yourself. Otherwise call a licensed plumber.
If you have a fireplace, check inside for cracks, build up and remove old ashes. Also, look outside and to ensure there is no space between the chimney and the exterior wall and that there are no loose bricks. Also the damper, which regulates the flow of air through the chimney, should be able to open and closes easily, Re/Max says.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, one out of every six fires in the home is a result of malfunctioning or incorrectly used heating equipment and half of those fires occur during the winter months of December, January and February. As such, keep anything that could burn at least 3 feet away from a heating source like a space heater or a fireplace. Only one space heater should be plugged into a single electrical outlet at a time, the USFA says. Never use a propane-powered heater indoors unless it’s specifically designed for that purpose with an oxygen monitor that shuts off if high carbon monoxide levels are detected.
Arm yourself with plenty of rock salt, de-icer, and shovels to remove snow and ice from the outside of your home. Some cities and towns assess fines to homeowners who don’t remove snow from around their property within a certain amount of time after a heavy snowfall, Re/Max says. Also, remove snow in front of homes where the elderly or disabled reside. You might just get a basket of cookies this winter in return or even satisfaction by doing the right thing.
Freddie Mac (OTCQB: FMCC) today released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing mortgage rates moving lower for the sixth consecutive week amid ongoing market volatility. The average 30-year fixed is hovering just above its 2015 low of 3.59 percent.
30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.65 percent with an average 0.5 point for the week ending February 11, 2016, down from last week when it averaged 3.72 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.69 percent.
15-year FRM this week averaged 2.95 percent with an average 0.5 point, down from 3.01 percent last week. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 2.99 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 theDefinitions. Borrowers may still pay closing costs which are not included in the survey.
Quote Attributed to Sean Becketti, chief economist, Freddie Mac.
“The 30-year mortgage rate dropped another 7 basis points this week to 3.65 percent. This week’s drop leaves the mortgage rate just 6 basis points above last year’s low of 3.59 percent.”
“In a falling rate environment, mortgage rates often adjust more slowly than capital market rates, and the early-2016 flight-to-quality has run true to form. The 30-year mortgage rate has dropped 36 basis points since the start of the year, while the yield on the 10-year Treasury has dropped 59 basis points over the same period. If Treasury yields were to hold at current levels, mortgage rates might well sink a little further before stabilizing.”
Builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes held steady at 60 in January from a downwardly revised December reading of 60, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI).
The January HMI reading is in line with NAHB’s forecast of modest growth for housing. NAHB expects growth in 2016 for the single-family, multifamily, and remodeling sectors of the residential construction industry as continued job growth supports demand for housing.
Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for 30 years, the NAHB/Wells Fargo HMI gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as “good,” “fair” or “poor.” The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as “high to very high,” “average” or “low to very low.” Scores for each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.
The HMI component gauging current sales condition rose two points 67 in January. The index measuring sales expectations in the next six months fell three points to 63, and the component charting buyer traffic dropped two points to 44.