What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – March 24, 2014

What's Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week - March 24, 2014Last week’s economic news included several housing-related reports including the Housing Market Index (HMI) for March, a report on housing starts, and building permits for February.

The National Association of REALTORS® also released its Existing Home Sales report for February and the Federal Reserve issued its first FOMC statement under the helm of Fed Chair Janet Yellen.

Home Builders Conservative On Housing Market Conditions

The National Association of Home Builders Wells Fargo Housing Market Index rose by one point to a reading of 47 in March against a reading of 46 in February and against an expected reading of 50. Readings above 50 signify that more builders have a positive view of housing market conditions than not.

Conditions contributing to the sluggish reading included a lack of lots for development and labor shortages. The NAHB also cited rising home prices and mortgage rates as reasons for builders’ conservative outlook.

Commerce Department: Housing Starts And Building Permits

The U.S. Commerce Department released reports on Housing Starts and Building Permits Issued for February. Housing starts dipped to 907,000 in February against expectations of 908,000 expected housing starts and January’s reading of 909,000 housing starts. Severe winter weather froze construction and transport of building supplies.

Building permits issued increased to 1.02 million on a seasonally adjusted basis against January’s reading of 945,000 building permits issued.

February’s reading represents a 7.70 percent increase over January’s permits issued and was attributed to a sharp rise in plans for condominiums and rental housing projects.

407,000 permits for multi-unit buildings were issued in February and represented a 24.3 percent increase on an annualized basis. Analysts saw the increase in building permits as a sign that construction will pick up as warmer weather arrives.

Existing Home Sales Fall, Rising Home Prices And Mortgage Guidelines Cited

The National Association of REALTORS® reported a decrease of 0.40 percent in sales of existing homes from January’s reading. February’s reading of 4.60 million homes sold on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis was lower than January’s reading of 4.62 million existing homes sold, but exceeded expectations of 4.58 million existing homes sold.

Analysts identified familiar causes such as high mortgage rates and home prices, bad weather and a short supply of available homes for the dip in existing home sales. New standards for “qualified mortgages” became effective in January and were seen as a possible obstacle to would-be home buyers as mortgage lenders keep a tight rein on mortgage credit policies.

Federal Open Market Committee Statement Details $10 Billion Dollar Change

Reports indicate that Fed Policy is expected to stay much the same as it was under its previous chairman. FOMC approved an additional $10 billion reduction in asset purchases designed to keep long term interest rates low.

The Fed will now purchase $55 billion monthly in mortgage-backed securities and treasury bonds as compared to its original level of $85 billion monthly.

Wall Street did not respond well to FOMC’s revised projections for short-term interest rates, which were revised from 1.75 percent by the end of 2016 to a possible short-term rate of 2.25 percent.

FOMC removed the benchmark 6.50 percent national unemployment rate for raising the federal funds rate, which is currently 0.250 percent. Instead, the Fed will review a wide range of economic indicators before changing monetary policy.

Janet Yellen, in her first press conference as fed chair, said that the Fed may consider rising short-term interest rates a few months before its original target of October to December of 2015.

Mortgage Rates Drop

Mortgage rates dropped last week according to Freddie Mac. Average mortgage rates fell from 4.37 percent to 4.32 percent for 30-year fixed rate loans. Rates for 15-year mortgages dropped from 3.38 percent to 3.32 percent.

The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage fell from 3.09 percent to 3.02 percent. Discount points were unchanged at 0.60 percent for fixed rate mortgages and 0.40 percent for 5/1 adjustable rate mortgages.

What’s Ahead This Week

Scheduled economic reports for this week include the Case-Shiller and FHFA Home Price Indexes for January. New Home Sales and Pending Home Sales will also be released.

Housing Starts, Building Permits Rising Into 2013

Housing Starts November 2011Single-family housing starts took a small step back in November.

According to the monthly Housing Starts report from the U.S. Department of Commerce, single-family housing starts tallied 565,000 in November 2012 on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis. This marks a 4 percent decline from October, but is more than 100,000 higher than the count from 12 months ago.

Clearly, the nation’s new home construction market is expanding.

On a regional basis, single-family housing starts have been strongest in the Midwest; and Hurricane Sandy appears to have affected the number of starts across the Northeast.

As compared to one year ago:

  • Northeast Region : Housing starts down 19% on an annual basis
  • Midwest Region : Housing starts up 40% on an annual basis
  • South Region : Housing starts up 24% on an annual basis
  • West Region : Housing starts up 33% on an annual basis

It’s expected that new construction growth will continue into 2013, too. This is because the Department of Commerce report also showed Building Permits mostly unchanged for November at 565,000 units on a seasonally-adjusted annualized basis.

As compared to November 2011, this marks a 25% increase. Permits for multi-family homes are up 17%, too.

There are more building permits being issued today that at any time in the last 4 years.

For home buyers, this may be good news. Rising permits and housing starts suggests a more healthy U.S. economy, but it also means that home supplies may not be as tight throughout the next few months.

Overly-tight home supplies in some U.S. markets have contributed to rapidly rising home values. With more construction and larger home inventories, home prices may rise in 2013 less slowly.

The good news, though, is the mortgage rates remain near all-time lows and low- and no-downpayment mortgage programs are abundant. For today’s home buyer, there are plenty of affordable ways to purchase a home.

Talk with your real estate agent and your loan officer to see which plan works best for you.

Housing Starts Move To 2-Year High

Housing Starts chartThe new construction housing market continues to make gains.

Wednesday, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Housing Starts for single-family homes up 5.5 percent in August to a seasonally-adjusted, annualized count of 535,000 units nationwide.

The report marks the fifth month of six that single-family starts increased, and marks the highest starts tally since April 2010 — the last month of that year’s federal homebuyer tax credit program.

A “housing start” is a new home on which construction has started and the steady growth in single-family starts suggests a stronger housing market into 2013.

All four U.S. regions showed single-family housing start growth on both a monthly basis and on an annual one :

  • Northeast Region : 4.5% monthly growth; 31.4% annual growth
  • Midwest Region : 15.6% monthly growth; 74.5% annual growth
  • South Region : 3.2% monthly growth; 17.2% annual growth
  • Midwest Region : 4.6% monthly growth; 23.9% annual growth

The data is just the latest in a series of signals that today’s new construction housing market has put its worst days behind it.

The nation’s home builders appear to agree, as well.

Earlier this week, the National Association of Homebuilders released its Housing Market Index, a monthly metric which measures homebuilder confidence in the new construction market.

The homebuilder trade association put the HMI at 40 — a 6-year high. Builders expect a strong finish to 2012 and for momentum to carry into 2013 and beyond.

The new construction market — like most of housing — has been fueled by a combination of the lowest mortgage rates in history, ample access to low- and no-downpayment mortgages, and an ever-shrinking supply of new homes for sale.

In July there were just 142,000 new homes for sale nationwide, down 14% from the year prior. As supply shrinks, all things equal, new home prices rise.

If you’ve been considering new construction, therefore, talk to builders sooner rather than later. As demand for homes heats up, prices are likely to rise.

Housing Starts Up 26% In Last 12 Months

Housing StartsSometimes, the housing data headlines tell just half the tale. The stories on May’s Housing Starts figures are proving to be a terrific illustration.

Tuesday, the Census Bureau released its monthly Housing Starts report. A “housing start” is a home on which construction has started.

The report is separated by property type with a separate count for single family homes such as detached residences and town homes; for multiple-unit homes such as 2-unit, 3-unit and 4-unit structures; and, for buildings of 5-units of more such as new condominiums.

In May, Housing Starts fell 4.8 percent nationwide. This runs contrary to recent housing market statistics and home builder confidence data which both have suggested a recovery. The press picked up the story and ran the following headlines :

  • Housing Starts In U.S. Fall 4.8% In May (BusinessWeek)
  • Housing Starts Plunge, But Permits Surge In Mixed Market (CNBC)
  • Housing Starts Slump In May (US News)

Although factually correct, these headlines are somewhat misleading. 

Housing Starts did slip 4.8 percent last month but that figure accounts for all Housing Starts. It fails isolate the single-family starts that matter to today’s buyers and sellers. Homeowners rarely buy multi-unit homes or entire apartment buildings.

If we remove the report’s tally of 2-4 unit homes and apartment buildings, we find that, in May, single-family housing starts rose for the 4th straight month, registering 516,000 homes started on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis. This is the highest tally since April 2010, the last month of that year’s frderal home buyer tax credit. 

Single-family housing starts are up 26% as compared to last year. 

The housing starts report, therefore — headlines aside — is the latest in a series of housing market data that points to a sustained recovery nationwide. If you’re planning to buy a home in 2012, consider buying in between now and September because after that point, home prices and mortgage rates are likely to be higher.

Single-Family Housing Starts Powers Ahead

Housing StartsThe new construction housing market continues to improve.

One day after the National Association of Homebuilders reported a 5-year high in homebuilder confidence, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that single-family housing starts rose 2 percent for the second straight month last month.

In April, on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis, the government reports 492,000 single-family housing starts. A “housing start” is a home on which ground has broken.

In addition, March’s single-family housing starts were revised higher. What was previously reported as a three percent loss was re-measured and changed to a 0.2% gain.

The April tally marks a six percent increase over the one-year moving average and, along with the March revision, suggests that the springtime housing market may have just been seasonal. 

In March, a number of reports suggested a housing retreat :

Since then, though, low mortgage rates and affordable home prices appear to have sustained the new construction market, which now appears poised for a strong 2012. 

As one mark of proof, active buyers of newly-built homes nationwide are scheduling “model home” showings at the fastest pace since 2007. The burst of foot traffic high has builders upping their sales expectations for the next 6 months.

A scenario like this would normally lead new home prices higher, but the pressure for prices to rise may be offset by the amount of new home supply coming online.

In addition to a rise in Housing Starts, the Census Bureau also reports that, in April, the number of Building Permits for single-family homes rose 2 percent to move to its second-highest level since March 2010 — the month preceding the end of the 2010 federal Home buyer tax credit.

86 percent of homes break ground within one month of permit issuance.

It’s unclear whether housing is on a steady path higher, but there’s a growing body of evidence that suggests the market bottom has already passed.

Single-Family Housing Starts Slip 0.2% In March

Housing Starts Tuesday, the government released its March 2012 New Residential Construction report. 

The report is made up of three sections, each related to a phase of the “new home” market. The report’s first part is Building Permits; the second is Housing Starts; the third is Housing Completions.

Of the three sections, it’s Housing Starts that gets the most attention from the press — mostly because, of the triad, it’s the simplest for a layperson to understand. However, the manner in which Housing Starts data is reported can be misleading.

Today’s newspapers offer up an excellent example.

According to the Census Bureau, total Housing Starts fell by 6% in March as compared to the month prior. 654,000 units were started on a seasonally-adjusted annualized basis.

For Housing Starts, it’s the lowest reading in 5 months, a statistic suggesting that the housing market may have lost some momentum. Much of the press covered the story from a “housing is slowing” angle.

A few published headlines include : 

Although these headlines are accurate, they tell just half of the story.

Housing Starts did drop in March, but if we remove a subset of the data — structures with “5 or more units”; a grouping that includes condominiums and apartment buildings — we’re left with Housing Starts for single-family residences only. It’s this data that matters most to buyers nationwide. 

Few home buyers buy entire apartment buildings. Most buy single-family homes. 

In March, single-family Housing Starts were down 0.2% from the month prior, or just 1,000 units on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis.

That’s hardly a drop at all.

Building Permits On The Rise

Building PermitsThe new construction housing market appears primed for growth this season.

According to the Census Bureau, the number of single-family building permits issued in February rose to 472,000 on a seasonally-adjusted, annual basis, marking the highest building permit tally since April 2010 — the last month of that year’s federal home buyer tax credit program.

Building permits are a pre-cursor to new home construction.

In 2011, from the date of permit-issuance to the date of “ground-breaking”, an average of 27 calendar days passed. February’s data, therefore, is a signal that the market for newly-built homes should be strong this year, an idea supported by the most recent homebuilder confidence survey.

As buyer foot traffic soars, homebuilders expect to make more sales in the next 6 months than at any time since the housing market’s collapse. Builder confidence is at a 5-year high.

Last month, however, single-family housing starts slipped.

As compared to January, February’s single-family housing starts fell by 50,000 units on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis. The 10% drop represents the largest one-month drop since February 2011. It’s a statistic that may suggest that this year’s results are simply seasonal.

For buyers of new construction, the news is mixed.

Rising permits and builder confidence may mean that homebuilders will be less willing to negotiate with today’s buyer on upgrades and/or home prices. However, as more new home supply is set to come online, excess housing stock could help keep home prices low. 

If you’re planning to buy new construction this year, be sure to ask your real estate agent about the local home supply, and how the market is currently trending. With mortgage rates low and the summer buying season approaching, you may find some of your best deals of the year available in just the next few weeks.

Housing Starts Stay Strong; Building Permits Rise.

Single-family housing starts

The housing market has carried forward its year-end momentum. 

According to the Census Bureau, on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis, January’s Single-Family Housing Starts crossed the half-million unit marker for the second straight month.

This hasn’t happened in close to 2 years and is the latest in a series of strong data that suggests the beleaguered housing market has turned a corner.  

Although single-family starts slipped 1 percent from December, January’s annualized 508,000 figure represents a 16% spike from January 2011 and is the second-highest reading since April 2010 — the last month of 2010’s federal home buyer tax credit program.

A “housing start” is a new home on which construction has started.

The strength of January’s Housing Starts data surprised Wall Street analysts and is partially responsible for Thursday’s unexpected mortgage rate spike. 

In hindsight, though, we should have seen this coming.

Earlier in the week, the National Association of Homebuilders announced that homebuilder confidence had climbed to its highest point since 2007 amid builder reports of rising sales volume and the most foot traffic from buyers in more than 4 years.

In addition, builders expect to sell more homes in 2012 than in 2011.

Builders are building and buyers are buying.

Meanwhile, as another sign of housing market strength, the Census Bureau reports that, in January, Building Permits moved to a multi-year high as well. Permits issued for single-family homes in January rose 1 percent from December, a statistic that suggests housing will continue its run through the spring season, at least.

86 percent of homes break ground within one month of permit issuance.

It’s a good time to be a home buyer. Mortgage rates and home prices are low. Housing market momentum, however, is building. If you’re on the fence about whether to buy a home , ask your real estate agent for additional market information.

The cost of home-ownership may never be as low as it is today.

Housing Starts Show Strength In Housing

Housing Starts 2007-2011

The new construction housing market continues to show strength across the country.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Single-Family Housing Starts rose to 447,000 units on a seasonally-adjusted, annualized basis in November — a 2 percent increase from October.

A “Housing Start” is defined as breaking ground on new home construction.

November’s figures mark the third straight month of Single-Family Housing Starts gains. The new construction metric is now 15 percent above its all-time low, set in February of this year.

None of this should be a surprise to new home buyers.

Housing data has been trending better since September with sales volumes rising and home inventories falling. Basic economics tells us that home prices should soon rise.

The good news is that low mortgage rates should keep homes affordable.

Since mid-November, the average, conventional 30-year fixed rate mortgage has hovered near 4.000% nationwide with an accompanying 0.7 discount points plus closing costs. 1 discount point equals one percent of your loan size. This is down from near 4.500% six months ago, and the drop has made a big impact on home affordability. 

  • June 2011 : $200,000 mortgage costs $1,013.37 per month
  • December 2011 : $200,000 mortgage costs $954.83 per month

This represents $700 in savings per year. It’s no wonder home builders report the highest buyer foot traffic in 3 years

Meanwhile, the market shows little signs of slowing down. Building Permits are on the rise, too.

Permits for single-family homes rose to their highest levels of year in November and 89 percent of those homes will start construction within 60 days. This means that Single-Family Housing Starts should stay strong through the early part of 2012, and into the spring.

If you’re planning to buy new construction , therefore, talk to your real estate agent soon and consider moving up your time frame. With mortgage rates low and next year’s buying season approaching, you may find that the best “deals” will come within the next few weeks only.

Finding Truth In September’s Housing Starts Report

Housing Starts 2009-2011Headlines in newspapers can be misleading — especially with respect to housing figures. Media coverage of the most recent Housing Starts data serves as an excellent illustration.

Wednesday, the Census Bureau released its September Housing Starts report. In it, the government said that national Housing Starts rose 15 percent in September as compared to August 2011, tallying 658,000 units on a seasonally-adjusted annualized basis.

The September reading is the highest monthly reading since April 2010, the last month of last year’s home buyer tax credit.

The sudden surge in starts is big news for a housing market that has struggled of late, and the press was eager to carry the story. Here is a sampling of some headlines:

  • U.S. Housing Starts Rise 15%, Hit 17-Month High (MarketWatch)
  • Home Building Jumps 15% in September (ABC)
  • New Construction Surges In September (LA Times)

These headlines are each accurate. However, they’re also misleading.

Yes, Housing Starts did surge in September, but if we remove the “5 or more units” grouping from the Census Bureau data — the catgory that includes apartment buildings and condominium structures — we’re left with Single-Family Housing Starts and Single-Family Housing Starts rose just 1.7 percent last month.

That’s a good number, but hardly a great one. And for home buyers and sellers nationwide, it’s the Single-Family Housing Starts that matter most. Individuals like you and I don’t buy entire apartment buildings. Most often, we buy single-family homes. Therefore, that’s the data for which we should watch.

The good news is that media tales work in both directions.

Building Permits dropped 5 percent last month when the volatile 5-unit-or-more-units category was included from the math. Isolating for single-family homes, we find that permits were unchanged.

This is good housing because 82% of homes begin construction within 60 days of permit-issuance, hinting at a steady, late-fall housing market.