Housing starts rose 3.6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.572 million last month, the Commerce Department said on Wednesday. April’s reading was revised lower to 1.517 million from 1.569 million. Economists surveyed by Refinitiv had expected housing starts to rise to 1.63 million.
Starts surged 50% on a year-over-year basis in May. Homebuilding rose in the Midwest, South and West but fell in the Northeast.
The slight increase in homebuilding came as lumber prices topped out on May 7 and fell 22% through the end of the month, finishing below where they ended April. A lumber shortage that developed in the aftermath of COVID-19 lockdowns caused the cost of the critical material to soar, resulting in builders putting off projects and losing confidence.
Permits for future construction slipped 3% to a rate of 1.681 million units in May, missing the 1.73 million units that economists were expecting.
The drop in builder confidence was reflected in the latest National Association of Homebuilder’s/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index that was released on Tuesday. The index fell two points in June to 81, a 10-month low.
A national moratorium on the eviction of tenants had previously been set to expire today, though a 5-4 decision at the nation’s highest court will see the order extended for another month. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined with the court’s three liberal justices to leave the moratorium in place, with Kavanaugh issuing a one-paragraph concurrence detailing his views. “Because the CDC plans to end the moratorium in only a few weeks, on July 31, and because those few weeks will allow for an additional and more orderly distribution of the congressionally appropriated rental assistance funds, I vote at this time to deny the application” that had been filed by real estate firms and trade associations.
Backdrop: The CDC eviction moratorium was put in place under the Trump administration, aiming to shield tenants who missed monthly rent payments from being forced out of their homes during the coronavirus pandemic (they still owe back rent). It was originally set to expire on Dec. 31, 2020, but Congress stretched the order until late January, and it was then extended several more times under the Biden administration. While the CDC last week announced a final, one-month extension through July, U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled the moratorium was legally unsupportable, though she stayed her ruling (pending appeal) citing public-health concerns.
While the moratorium has protected millions of tenants, it has also resulted in financial hardships for landlords. Property owners, which say they are losing $13B a month in unpaid rent, are still liable for taxes, insurance and maintenance costs tied to their real estate. They also said the ban on evictions is less justifiable now due to the easing of COVID-19 restrictions and a high number of vaccinated Americans.
Reactions: “Allowing evictions to proceed when there are tens of billions in resources to prevent them would be wasteful and cruel,” said Diane Yentel, CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Landlords feel differently. “With the pandemic waning and the economy improving, it is time to restore the housing sector to its healthy, former function,” replied Charlie Oppler, President of the National Association of Realtors.
Statistics: By the end of March, 6.4M American households were behind on their rent, according to data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. On June 7, a Household Pulse Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau also showed that roughly 3.2M people in the U.S. feared an eviction in the next two months.
On May 4, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed an extension of the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020 and the COVID-19 Emergency Protect Our Small Businesses Act. The legislation (S.6362-A/A.7175-A) extends moratoriums prohibiting residential and commercial evictions, foreclosure proceedings, as well as protections against credit discrimination and negative credit reporting related to the COVID-19 pandemic until Aug. 31, 2021.
“As we approach the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, it is critical that we continue to protect both New York’s tenants and business owners who have suffered tremendous hardship throughout this entire pandemic,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Extending this legislation will help to ensure that vulnerable New Yorkers and business owners who are facing eviction through no fault of their own are able to keep their homes and businesses as we continue on the road to recovery and begin to build back our economy better than it was before.”
The legislation places a moratorium on residential evictions until Aug. 31, 2021 for tenants who have endured COVID-related hardship. Tenants must submit a hardship declaration, or a document explaining the source of the hardship, to prevent evictions. Landlords can evict tenants that are creating safety or health hazards for other tenants, and those tenants who do not submit hardship declarations.
Residential Foreclosure Proceedings
The legislation also places a moratorium on residential foreclosure proceedings until Aug. 31, 2021. Homeowners and small landlords who own 10 or fewer residential dwellings can file hardship declarations with their mortgage lender, other foreclosing party or a court that would prevent a foreclosure.
The legislation places a moratorium on evictions until Aug. 31, 2021 for commercial tenants have endured COVID-related hardship. The legislation applies to small businesses with under 50 employees that demonstrate a financial hardship. Tenants must submit a hardship declaration, or a document explaining the source of the hardship, to prevent evictions.
Commercial Foreclosure Proceedings:
The legislation places a moratorium on commercial foreclosure proceedings until Aug. 31, 2021.
Tax Lien Sales
The legislation prevents local governments from engaging in a tax lien sale or a tax foreclosure until at least Aug. 31, 2021. Payments due to the locality are still due.
Credit Discrimination and Negative Credit Reporting
Lending institutions are prohibited from discriminating against a property owner seeking credit because the property owner has been granted a stay of mortgage foreclosure proceedings, tax foreclosure proceedings or tax lien sales. They are also prohibited from discriminating because the owner is in arrears and has filed a hardship declaration with the lender.
Senior Citizens’ Homeowner Exemption and Disabled Homeowner Exemption
Local governments are required to carry over SCHE and DHC exemptions from the 2020 assessment roll to the 2021 assessment roll at the same levels. They are also required to provide renewal applications for anyone who may be eligible for a larger exemption in 2021. Localities can also set procedures by which assessors can require renewal applications from people who the assessors believe may no longer be eligible for an exemption in 2021. Recipients of the exemption do not have to file renewal applications in person.
Gov. Cuomo first announced a state moratorium on residential and commercial evictions on March 20, 2020 to ensure no tenant was evicted during the height of the public health emergency. The governor signed the Tenant Safe Harbor Act on June 30 which became effective immediately as well as additional legislation providing financial assistance to residential renters and landlords. Additionally, previous Executive Orders have prohibited charges or fees for late rent payments, and tenants facing financial hardship can still use their security deposit as payment and repay their security deposit over time.
Senate Housing Committee Chair and bill sponsor Brian Kavanagh said, “The COVID-19 numbers in New York continue to be stubbornly high throughout the state and we need public health measures like the eviction and foreclosure moratorium to keep New Yorkers safe, and ultimately to get past this terrible pandemic as soon as possible. The Centers for Disease Control have specifically found that permitting evictions increases the spread of COVID-19 and that moratorium laws like New York’s work to prevent transmission. Ensuring that everyone has access to a stable, safe place to live is always a priority, but it’s never been more important than it is now.”
Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz added, “I am very pleased that the Assembly passed this critical legislation that will help keep people in their homes and small business owners in their stores. This is life-changing legislation that allows the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance and other relevant agencies more time to disburse the billions of dollars in state and federal funding to people who need it. We are still in the midst of a global pandemic and the worst economic crisis in our lifetimes. I believe it would be immoral to allow the current moratorium to lapse. This law will save lives.”
January marked the fifth straight month that the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) has reported a decline in its Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI). The index, based on newly signed contracts for the purchase of existing homes, was down 2.8 percent from its December level.
The index in January was at 122.8 compared to 125.5 in December and has lost 10 points since August. Still, pending sales were up 13 percent compared to a year earlier. This January’s PHSI was, in fact, the highest for any January on record.
Analysts had expected the index to be flat but individual estimates by those polled by Econoday all overshot the actual results. They covered a range from a 1.5 percent downturn to 0.5 percent growth. The consensus was for zero change.
“Pending home sales fell in January because there are simply not enough homes to match the demand on the market,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “That said, there has been an increase in permits and requests to build new homes.” Yun said that increase in single-family permits has been consistent for eight months and is a good sign that the supply and demand imbalance in the residential real estate market could be easing as soon as mid-2021.
“There will also be a natural seasonal upswing in inventory in spring and summer after few new listings during the winter months,” he said. “These trends, along with an anticipated ramp-up in home construction will provide for much-needed supply.”
Following a week where January’s existing-home sales increased, Yun noted that pending contracts are a great early indicator for upcoming closed sales but stressed that the timing of the relationship between existing-home sales and pending home sales may not be in lockstep.
“The two measurements aren’t always perfectly correlated due to varying amounts of time required to close a contract,” Yun said. “This is because a number of fallouts can occur due to a variety of factors, including a buyer not obtaining mortgage financing, a problem with a home inspection, or an appraisal issue.”
He noted that the economy is showing promising signs of improvement, and many millions of Americans are now receiving a COVID-19 vaccination. Still, he cautioned that the better economic outlook, rising inflation prospects and higher budget deficits will soon drive increases in interest rates. “I don’t foresee mortgage rates jumping to an alarming level,” he said, “but we should prepare for a rise of at least a decimal point or two.”
Pending home sales transactions in the South inched up 0.1 percent to an index of 151.3 in January and were 17.1 percent higher year-over-year. The index in the West was at 104.6, a 7.8 percent drop from December but up 11.5 percent from a year prior.
The PHSI is based on a large national sample, typically representing about 20 percent of transactions for existing-home sales. In developing the model for the index, it was demonstrated that the level of monthly sales-contract activity parallels the level of closed existing-home sales in the following two months. Existing home sales numbers for February will be released on March 22.
An index of 100 is equal to the average level of contract activity during 2001, which was the first year to be examined. By coincidence, the volume of existing-home sales in 2001 fell within the range of 5.0 to 5.5 million, which is considered normal for the current U.S. population.
“The housing market continues to surge higher and support an otherwise stagnant economy that has lost momentum in the last couple of months,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s Chief Economist. “Mortgage rates are at record lows and pushing many prospective homebuyers off the sidelines and into the market. Homebuyer sentiment is sanguine and purchase demand shows no real signs of waning at all heading into next year.” Visit tvbedstore website where you can find the best furniture for your new house.
30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.67 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending December 17, 2020, down from last week when it averaged 2.71 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.73 percent.
15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.21 percent with an average 0.6 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.26 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.19 percent.
The PMMS is focused on conventional, conforming, fully amortizing home purchase loans for borrowers who put 20 percent down and have excellent credit. 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.
Low mortgage rates and record-low housing inventory has driven home price increases throughout the year. The National Association of Realtors is saying that the median single-family home price grew year over year in all 181 metro areas it tracks.
In the U.S., median existing single-family home prices rose 12% year over year to $313,500, NAR said. In 117 metros, there were double-digit price gains from one year ago. For added perspective, in Q2, only 15 metro areas had double-digit price gains.
What can help remedy high home prices? Finding a solution to the housing inventory crisis, NARs Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said.
By the end of Q3, 1.47 million existing homes were available for sale, which is 19.2% lower than the total inventory at the end of Q3 last year. As of September 2020, there were enough homes in inventory to last 2.7 months at the current sales pace.
“As home prices increase both too quickly and too significantly, first-time buyers will increasingly face difficulty in coming up with a down payment,” Yun said. “Transforming raw land into developable lots and new supply are clearly needed to help tame the home price growth.”
Some of the metros with the biggest gains in Q3 were Bridgeport, Conn., 27.3%; Crestview, Fla., 27.1%; Pittsfield, Mass., 26.9%; Kingston, N.Y., 21.5%; and Atlantic City, N.J., 21.5%.
According to NAR, the monthly mortgage payment on a typical single-family home rose to $1,059 in Q3. As of Thursday, the average U.S. mortgage rate for a 30-year fixed loan rose to 2.84%, Freddie Mac said.
“Favorable mortgage rates will continue to bring fresh buyers to the market,” said Yun. “However, the affordability situation will not improve even with low-interest rates because housing prices are increasing much too fast.”
The following graph shows the benchmark Census measures of home construction, the seasonally adjusted annual rates of single-family starts and single-family home sales. Starts account for the beginning of construction of homes, whether that construction is for a home already under a sales contract, being built for-sale, being built for-rent, or undertaken for a construction contract (a custom build on an owner’s lot). New home sales are signed sales contracts for new builds, whether that home has started or completed construction (new home sales is thus a counterpart to the NAR pending sales index, rather than existing home sales, which account for closed contracts).
The reason that starts outpace sales on the chart below is because, as noted above, starts represents all home builds. Thus, while the measure of new home sales represents only the more narrow for-sale class, housing starts also include custom builds and built-for-rent construction.
The consequences of the virus-induced 2020 downturn (the Great Disruption?) is seen clearly at the end of the graph, particularly the V-shaped nature of the impact on housing. While both measures have staged impressive rebounds, the sales measure has completely closed the gap between the two series.
However, the actual effect is larger. For an apples-to-apples comparison of the rates of for-sale construction and new home sales, we need to filter the starts series to remove custom builds and built-for-rent single-family construction. Using Census quarterly data of these construction types, I interpolated the quarterly data into monthly, seasonally adjusted data and then subtracted this new series from the existing Census data series. The new data series, single-family for-sale starts, allows for a precise comparison of the pace of home building in the for-sale sector relative to sales, as graphed below.
The new series is much closer to the sales data, with just occasional periods of notable difference amid the statistical noise. The adjusted data makes clear how great the current difference is between sales (red) and starts (blue). This gap is unprecedented in the 20 years of data presented here, and there is no comparable period in the data going back to 1963. Plotting the difference between the monthly rates of for-sale starts and sales yields the following series, which peaks in the most recent data.
The degree to which current new home sales are outpacing starts is clear in the above graph. These data are consistent with Census estimates and NAHB surveys that indicate builders are selling homes that have not begun construction in greater numbers. Indeed, the count of such home sales is up 69% compared to a year ago, an incredible jump. To place the current data into context, I smoothed the data using 6-month moving averages. While this dilutes somewhat the scale of the current gap, it shows three relevant periods over the last two decades where sales and for-sale starts disconnected.
As seen above, the first period occurred during the housing boom when for-sale starts exceeded sales, leading to an inventory overhang that was part of the housing crisis preceding the Great Recession. The second separation occurred as single-family starts plummeted during the Great Recession and sales, helped by the three stages of the federal home buyer tax credit, reduced excess inventory (new home months’ supply peaked at 11.1 during the spring of 2008).
These two prior periods happened in an overbuilt environment. The script is flipped today. Months’ supply for new homes is down to a lean 3.3, and existing home months’ supply (per NAR data) is at a very tight 2.8. Thus, the third period of separation between for-sale starts and new home sales occurring now is a signal of the degree to which home building will need to play catch-up with current demand.
As with other economic impacts related to the virus, prior trends have been accelerated. With home building, the last decade (the Long Recovery) was characterized by underbuilding due to supply-side limitations such as labor availability and law/regulatory cost impacts. The lagging pace of construction, relative to current sales, is an intense, compressed version of these general economic trends, with builders citing lumber and material issues as delaying some, current construction projects.
Because builders do not want to contract home sales that they will not be able to deliver effectively, the current, historic gap between elevated sales volume and improving if relatively lower construction rates means that the pace of growth for new home sales will need to slow and/or the rate of home building will need to increase to balance the market. Strong levels of the NAHB/Wells Fargo HMI measure of home builder confidence are consistent with this expectation, for starts at least.
In the meantime, the current gap between for-sale starts and sales is unprecedented. Moreover, this gap is not the only historic, current data reading of the housing industry. The NAHB/Wells Fargo HMI reached a data series high in September.
And the gap between median newly-built and existing home prices, which peaked near $95,000 three years ago, has closed and inverted. According to NAR data, the median price for a resale single-family home was $315,000, higher than the Census reported median of $312,800 for newly-built homes. That inversion has only occurred one other time over the last two decades (June 2005).
In sum, low levels of existing inventory, rising resale prices relative to new construction, strong builder confidence, and sales exceeding for-sale starts point to solid levels of home construction in the months ahead.
Home building sustains jobs (approximately 2.9 per home built and 0.75 per $100,000 in remodeling), which means more residential construction employment gains in the near-term. In fact, over the next two to three months residential construction will likely post a year-over-year gain for employment, a notable sign of strength for housing in the recovering economy.
Proof that the local home sales market is very strong despite the COVID pandemic can be found in the latest statistics released today by the National Association of Realtors. NAR reports that existing-home sales in the Northeast rose by a record 30.6% in the month of July.
NAR reported that nationwide home sales continued on a strong, upward trajectory in July, marking two consecutive months of significant sales gains. Each of the four major regions attained double-digit, month-over-month increases, although the Northeast was the only region to show a year-over-year decline.
Total existing-home sales, completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, jumped 24.7% from June to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.86 million in July. The previous record monthly increase in sales was 20.7% in June of this year. Sales as a whole rose year-over-year, up 8.7% from a year ago (5.39 million in July 2019).
“The housing market is well past the recovery phase and is now booming with higher home sales compared to the pre-pandemic days,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “With the sizable shift in remote work, current homeowners are looking for larger homes and this will lead to a secondary level of demand even into 2021.”
The median existing-home price for all housing types in July was $304,100, up 8.5% from July 2019 ($280,400), as prices rose in every region. July’s national price increase marks 101 straight months of year-over-year gains. For the first time ever, national median home prices breached the $300,000 level.
Total housing inventory at the end of July totaled 1.50 million units, down from both 2.6% in June and 21.1% from one year ago (1.90 million). Unsold inventory sits at a 3.1-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 3.9 months in June and down from the 4.2-month figure recorded in July 2019.
Yun notes these dire inventory totals have a substantial effect on sales.
“The number of new listings is increasing, but they are quickly taken out of the market from heavy buyer competition,” he said. “More homes need to be built.”
Last week, NAR released its latest data for metro home prices, which found that in 2020’s second quarter, median single-family home prices saw a 96% increase when compared to a year earlier.
Properties typically remained on the market for 22 days in July, seasonally down from 24 days in June and from 29 days in July 2019. Sixty-eight percent of homes sold in July 2020 were on the market for less than a month.
First-time buyers were responsible for 34% of sales in July, down from 35% in June 2020 and up from 32% in July 2019. NAR’s 2019 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, released in late 2019, revealed that the annual share of first-time buyers was 33%.
Individual investors or second-home buyers, who account for many cash sales, purchased 15% of homes in July, up from both 9% in June 2020 and from 11% in July 2019. All-cash sales accounted for 16% of transactions in July, equal to the percentage in June 2020 and down from 19% in July 2019.
Distressed sales—foreclosures and short sales—represented less than 1% of sales in July, down from 3% in June up from 2% in June 2019.
“Homebuyers’ eagerness to secure housing has helped rejuvenate our nation’s economy despite incredibly difficult circumstances,” said NAR President Vince Malta, broker at Malta & Co., Inc., in San Francisco. “Admittedly, we have a way to go toward full recovery, but I have faith in our communities, the real estate industry and in NAR’s 1.4 million members, and I know collectively we will continue to mount an impressive recovery.”
Realtor.com’s Market Hotness Index, measuring time-on-the-market data and listing views per property, revealed that the hottest metro areas in July were Topeka, KA; Rochester, NY; Burlington, NC; Columbus, OH and Reading, PA.
According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage decreased to 3.02% in July, down from 3.16% in June. The average commitment rate across all of 2019 was 3.94%.
Single-family and Condo/Co-op Sales
Single-family home sales sat at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.28 million in July, up 23.9% from 4.26 million in June, and up 9.8% from one year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $307,800 in July, up 8.5% from July 2019.
Existing condominium and co-op sales were recorded at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 580,000 units in July, up 31.8% from June and equal to a year ago. The median existing condo price was $270,100 in July, an increase of 6.4% from a year ago.
“Luxury homes in the suburbs are attracting buyers after having lagged the broader market for the past couple of years,” Yun said. “Single-family homes are continuing to outperform condominium units, suggesting a preference shift for a larger home, including an extra room for a home office.”
For the second consecutive month, sales for July increased in every region and median home prices grew in each of the four major regions from one year ago.
July 2020 existing-home sales in the Northeast rocketed 30.6%, recording an annual rate of 640,000, a 5.9% decrease from a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $317,800, up 4.0% from July 2019.
Existing-home sales jumped 27.5% in the Midwest to an annual rate of 1,390,000 in July, up 10.3% from a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $244,500, an 8.0% increase from July 2019.
Existing-home sales in the South shot up 19.4% to an annual rate of 2.59 million in July, up 12.6% from the same time one year ago. The median price in the South was $268,500, a 9.9% increase from a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the West ascended 30.5% to an annual rate of 1,240,000 in July, a 7.8% increase from a year ago. The median price in the West was $453,800, up 11.3% from July 2019.
Prices paid for goods used in residential construction increased 1.9% in June (not seasonally adjusted) according to the latest Producer Price Index (PPI) report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It is the second consecutive monthly increase since the index declined three months straight by a total 5.4%.
The index has decreased 3.0% year-to-date (YTD), five times the magnitude of the prior record for a June YTD decrease (-0.6% in 2009). Prices paid for goods used in residential construction have only fallen four times between January and June since 2000.Well when buying real estate it also includes important parts like garage door.Price of garage door may vary,So you might get confused which garage door to buy! Don’t worry check over here and you will able to clear all your doubts here.
The increase in prices paid for goods used in residential construction was led by a 12.9% increase in softwood lumber prices. Since decreasing 10.8% in April, softwood lumber prices have risen 16.5% and are now at the highest level since July 2018—the peak of the early- to mid-2018 runup. Although the YTD percentage increase in prices paid for softwood lumber is roughly two-thirds of the increase seen over the same period in 2018, timing of PPI data collection suggests that a recent, sharp advance in prices will be captured in the July PPI report.
Prices paid for gypsum products climbed 0.6% in June after increasing 1.5% in May (seasonally adjusted). The price index for gypsum products has risen 0.8% over the past 12 months and is 7.7% lower than the most recent peak reached in March 2018.
Even after the monthly increase, gypsum product prices have declined 2.5% YTD. Prices fell by 3.9% over the same period in 2019 and are just 4.4% higher than they were to start 2017.
Nationally, prices paid for ready-mix concrete (RMC) advanced 0.1% in June (seasonally adjusted) after no change in May.
Prices rose in the Northeast and West regions by 0.6% and 4.5%, respectively, while prices paid in the Midwest (-0.4%) and South (-2.3%) decreased month-over-month.
Other changes in indexes relevant to home building and infrastructure are shown below.
(Bloomberg Opinion) — No matter how you look at it, the economic fallout from the coronavirus is going to be brutal, with a projected 6.5% decline in real gross domestic product in 2020 and an unemployment rate of 9.3% at year-end, according to the Federal Reserve. In ordinary times, and without any policy response from government, a blow of this magnitude should weaken the housing market.Yet, what we’re starting to see is the very opposite. For various reasons, the supply of homes on the market continues to fall to record lows and home prices are, if anything, accelerating. For many homeowners stressed about the value of their biggest investment, it’s a welcome relief. But this signals one more hurdle for would-be millennial homebuyers as they age into their family-forming years.
The biggest reason we’re seeing home-price growth accelerating in the middle of a pandemic is that the disruption to the supply of housing is persisting longer than the disruption to demand — that is, would-be buyers. Wednesday’s weekly mortgage data showed that purchase applications rose for the eighth consecutive week and are approaching an 11-year high on a seasonally adjusted basis. Part of the reason for the quick rebound in demand is surely the decline in interest rates on mortgages to all-time lows, with few signs they are likely to rise for the foreseeable future.
But as is always the case in the housing market, supply doesn’t respond as quickly as demand. Single-family housing starts plunged in March and April, with the most recent report showing a 25% year-over-year tumble. Part of this decline is because construction in some states shutdown, and much more so in some regions than others. Single-family starts fell 73% in the Northeast but only 13% in the South. Even where construction continued, the pace slowed as builders adopted social distancing and other health measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Even as demand rebounds, homebuilders may be slow to acquire new construction lots and might hold back on increasing production after getting the scare they did in March and April. They may prefer to wait a while to make sure these revived levels of demand are sustainable, while they also shore up their balance sheets before beginning to build at the same pace as earlier this year.
Beyond the impact on construction, a little discussed factor leading to fewer homes on the market is mortgage forbearance programs put in place by banks, states and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. From a policy standpoint it’s great that banks and governments are helping to prevent a deluge of foreclosure as millions of people lose their livelihoods because of the pandemic. But a consequence of that policy change is that it deprives the housing market of the supply of foreclosed properties that occurs even in strong economies and solid job markets; this amounted to almost 500,000 houses in 2019.
Some homeowners may also be delaying the listing of their homes for sale because they’re sheltering-in-place, or have lost their jobs and can no longer provide income verification to buy a different home. They may also not be comfortable having potential buyers, who could be carrying the virus, walking into their homes for sales showings.
Put it all together and housing supply continues to fall. Mike Simonsen of Altos Research, who tracks real-time housing data, notes that there are only 700,000 single-family homes for sale in U.S. compared to more than 900,000 at this time last year. Normally at this time of year the housing supply has been rising for a few months amid the traditional spring buying season, only to fall later in the year as activity slows. But that’s not what we’ve seen during the past few months, as supply continues to contract. As a result, the percentage of homes for sale with price reductions is the lowest he’s seen in his database, a leading indicator suggesting faster home-price growth in coming months.
Presumably, at some point the coronavirus crisis will pass, foreclosures will move forward again and all participants in the housing market from would-be buyers, sellers and homebuilders resume normal behavior. To the extent home prices rose too high because of supply distortions, we should see home prices leveling off or even declining. But it’s not clear that this will be a 2020 story. And in the meantime, steadily rising home prices may join steadily rising stock-market prices in the middle of a pandemic as a phenomenon that continues to flummox everyone.