According to the Census Bureau’s Housing Vacancy Survey released This Week in Real Estate, the U.S. homeownership rate is on a “sustainable upward trend” at 64.2%, just 2.1% below the 25-year average rate of 66.3%. Below are a few highlights from the fourth week of April that influence our business:
* Homeownership Rate Stable at 64%.According to the Census Bureau’s Housing Vacancy Survey (HVS), the U.S. homeownership rate was 64.2% in the first quarter 2018, which is statistically no different from its last quarter reading. The rate of homeownership appears to be on a sustainable upward trend after reaching a cycle low of 62.9% in the second quarter of 2016. Compared to the peak of 69.2% in 2004, the homeownership rate is still down 5%, and remains below the 25-year average rate of 66.3%. On an annual basis, homeownership increased among all age groups under 55. The share of millennial who own a home increased from 34.3% a year ago to 35.3% in the first quarter 2018. However, it slipped 0.7% from a three-year high of 36% in the last quarter 2017.The homeownership rates of households ages 35-44 experienced a 0.8% increase, followed by the 0.6% gains registered by households ages 45-54. The non-seasonally adjusted homeowner vacancy rate remained low at 1.5% in the first quarter 2018, down by 0.1% from last quarter 2017. At the same time, the national rental vacancy rate held at 7%.
* Existing-Home Sales Climb 1.1 Percent in March. Existing-home sales grew for the second consecutive month in March, but lagging inventory levels and affordability constraints kept sales activity below year ago levels, according to the National Association of Realtors. Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 1.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.60 million in March from 5.54 million in February. Despite last month’s increase, sales are still 1.2 percent below a year ago. Lawrence Yun, NAR Chief Economist, says closings in March eked forward despite challenging market conditions in most of the country. “Robust gains last month in the Northeast and Midwest – a reversal from the weather-impacted declines seen in February – helped overall sales activity rise to its strongest pace since last November at 5.72 million,” said Yun. The median existing-home price for all housing types in March was $250,400, up 5.8 percent from March 2017 ($236,600). March’s price increase marks the 73rd straight month of year-over-year gains. Existing-home sales in the West declined 3.1 percent to an annual rate of 1.23 million in March, but are still 0.8 percent above a year ago. The median price in the West was $377,100, up 7.9 percent from March 2017.
* Mortgage Rates Climb to Highest Level in Over Four Years. Freddie Mac released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey on Thursday, showing average mortgage rates continuing the upward trajectory seen in most of early 2018. Sam Khater, Freddie Mac chief economist, says mortgage rates increased for the third consecutive week, climbing 11 basis points to 4.58 percent. “Mortgage rates are now at their highest level since the week of August 22, 2013,” he said. “Higher Treasury yields, driven by rising commodity prices, more Treasury issuances and the steady stream of solid economic news, are behind the uptick in rates over the past week.” Added Khater, “Despite the increase in borrowing costs, demand for home purchase credit remains solid. The Mortgage Bankers Association reported in their latest mortgage applications survey that activity was up 11 percent from a year ago.”
Homeowners continue to realize significant returns as a percentage of their original purchase price as reported This Week in Real Estate in ATTOM Data Solutions Q1 2018 Home Sales Report. The average home seller in the first quarter of this year realized a 29.5% return as a percentage of original purchase price. Below are a few highlights from the third week of April that influence our business:
* Small Gain for Housing Starts in March.Total housing starts increased slightly in March, led by multifamily construction strength. Starts increased 1.9% to a 1.32 million seasonally adjusted annual rate, according to the joint data release from the Census Bureau and HUD. However, the pace of single-family starts declined in March, falling 3.7% to an 867,000 seasonally adjusted annual rate, due to lingering weather effects in some parts of the nation. The three-month moving average for single-family starts remained near a post-recession high rate of construction (889,000). These recent trends for single-family starts match ongoing healthy levels of the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, now registering a score of 69. For the first quarter of 2018, single-family starts are 7% higher than this time in 2017, in-line with forecast for modest gains. Single-family permits were down 5.5% in March, although are recording a 5.3% improvement thus far in 2018 relative to this time in 2017.
* Most States Record YTD Single Family Permits Growth in February 2018.Over the first two months of 2018, the total number of single-family permits issued nationwide reached 123,871. On a year-over-year basis, this is an 11.2% increase over the February 2017 level of 111,356. The results from theSOC are similar, single-family permits over the second month of 2018 was, 122,800 which is 10.2% ahead of its level over the same period of 2017, 111,400. Between February 2017 to February 2018, 34 states saw growth in single-family permits issued while there was no change in New Hampshire. Seventeen states, including California, recorded a growth above 11.2% but 15 states, including New Jersey, Connecticut and Illinois, as well as the District of Columbia registered a decline. Idaho had the highest growth rate during this time at 53.9% while single-family permits in the District of Columbia declined by 51.0%. In the single-family sector, Texas led with 19,893 permits issued year-to-date in February 2018 and Florida was second with 13,964 during this time. Meanwhile the lowest number came from the District of Columbia with 24 permits. The 10 states issuing the highest number of single-family permits combined accounted for 64.0% of the single-family permits issued.
* 54% of U.S. Metros Post Median Home Prices Above Pre-Recession Peaks in Q1 2018.On Thursday ATTOM Data Solutions released its Q1 2018 U.S. Home Sales Report, which shows that median home prices in 57 of 105 metropolitan statistical areas analyzed in the report (54 percent) were above their pre-recession home price peaks in the first quarter. Nationwide the median home price of $240,000 in Q1 2018 was less than 1 percent below its pre-recession peak of $241,500 in Q3 2005, but still up 9.1 percent from a year ago. Among the 105 metropolitan statistical areas analyzed in the report, those posting the biggest year-over-year increase in median home prices were San Jose, California (up 33 percent); Flint, Michigan (up 20 percent); Spokane, Washington (up 18 percent); Reno, Nevada (up 17 percent); and Seattle, Washington (up 16 percent). U.S. homeowners who sold in Q1 2018 realized an average home price gain since purchase of $53,369, down from an average gain of $54,000 in Q4 2017 but still up from an average gain of $45,000 in Q1 2017. The average home seller gain of $53,369 in Q1 2018 represented an average 29.5 percent return as a percentage of original purchase price, down from a 29.8 percent return in the previous quarter but still up from a 25.7 percent return in Q1 2017. Among 154 metropolitan statistical areas analyzed in the report, those with the highest average home seller returns in Q1 2018 were San Jose, California (109.1 percent); San Francisco, California (73.6 percent); Seattle, Washington (66.0 percent); Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, Hawaii (65.3 percent); and Vallejo-Fairfield, California (58.8 percent).
Spring brings the promise of a fresh start. It provides many opportunities for home staging and is a time when many buyers hone in on a home. Make your home attractive to buyers with these spring staging tips.
Fresh flowers for vibrant color
Flowers are an integral part of spring and should be added both indoors and outdoors. Freshly-cut flowers in reflective glass vases add an instant spring feeling to a home. Botanical prints and colors in yellow or light-green shades also give rooms a spring-like feel. Create bright flowerbeds to brighten landscapes and add curb appeal. Display floral paintings and décor to help spruce up properties for the season.
Scents have a great emotional impact on people, so it is important to integrate them into the home. Choose fragrances that evoke fresh and clean energy with aromatherapy diffusers, natural potpourri or candles. Citrus (orange, lemon, grapefruit), vanilla, lavender, and freshly-cut lilac flowers are good choices. Stay away from strong synthetic smells that might bother those with chemical sensitivities.
Cleaning is essential
Every inch of the home should tell buyers that it is in tip-top shape. Windows should be thoroughly cleaned, cobwebs removed, and musty odors banished. Declutter (inside and outside) to make the property airy, light, and spacious. Avoid putting junk into closets, as prospective buyers will think the property doesn’t have enough storage.
Spruce up the back door
The back door should be as beautiful as the front to give potential buyers the same cheerful feeling they got when they first entered the home. Containers of potted bulbs on the back steps, deck table, or grassy areas near the house can be used to add color to spaces that have not fully grown in. Display a spring-themed welcome sign or door mat for a cheery touch.
While foreclosure activity continues to decrease year-over-year reaching pre-recession levels, analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data from the Pew Research Center revealed This Week in Real Estate multigenerational households hit an all-time high in 2016. Below are a few highlights from the second week of April that influence our business:
*Number of Multigenerational Households Hit All-Time High.The share of Americans living in multigenerational households, homes with two or more adult generations, hit an all-time high in 2016, according to a new analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data from the Pew Research Center. In 2016, the number of multigenerational households increased to 20% of the U.S. population, or 64 million people, an all-time high. In 2009, about 51.5 million Americans, or 17% of the population lived in multigen households, which rose to 60.6 million, or 19% of the population in 2014.
* U.S. Foreclosure Activity Decreases 19 Percent in Q1 2018 to Stay Below Pre-Recession Levels for Sixth Consecutive Quarter. ATTOM Data Solutions released its Q1 2018 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report on Thursday, which show a total of 189,870 U.S. properties with a foreclosure filing during the first quarter of 2018, up 4 percent from the previous quarter but still down 19 percent from a year ago and 32 percent below the pre-recession average of 278,912 per quarter from Q1 2006 – Q3 2007 – the sixth consecutive quarter where U.S. foreclosure activity has been below its pre-recession quarterly average. The report also shows a total of 74,341 U.S. properties with foreclosure filings in March 2018, up 21 percent from an all-time low in the previous month but still down 11 percent from a year ago – the 30th consecutive month with a year-over-year decrease in U.S. foreclosure activity.
* Record Commercial/Multifamily Volume in 2017.Multifamily mortgage financing was the big winner overall in what was a record setting year for commercial and multifamily originations. The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) said a record $530.1 billion in loans were closed in 2017, an 8 percent gain from 2016. The largest share of lending, more than half of the volume closed, was for multifamily properties at $233.9 billion. Loans for office buildings were second followed by retail, hotel/motel, industrial, and health care properties. Ninety-six percent of the dollar volume went to first mortgage liens. “2017 was a very strong year, driven by solid property fundamentals, rising property values, low interest rates, and a ready supply of mortgage capital all contributing to extraordinarily attractive finance markets,” said Jamie Woodwell, MBA’s Vice President of Commercial Real Estate Research. “We expect another robust year in 2018, even with the slight increase in interest rates, although perhaps not quite as robust as 2017.”
* Pending Home Sales Rebound.After a slow start to the year, the Pending Home Sales Index increased 3.1% in February, but remains 4.1% below a year ago. The Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI) is a forward-looking indicator based on signed contracts reported by the National Association of Realtors. The PHSI increased to 107.5 in February from a downwardly 104.3 in January. The PHSI increased by 10.3% in the Northeast and 3.0% in the South, as well as 0.7% in the Midwest and 0.4% in the West. Year-over-year, the PHSI is lower in all four regions by 1.5% in the South, 2.2% in the West, 5.1% in the Northeast and 9.5% in the Midwest. NAR suggested that the expanding economy and healthy job market continue to generate demand, despite the tight inventory, increasing prices, and rising mortgage rates. February existing home sales increased 3% in February, and although flat, February new home sales were up 2% year-over-year. Builder confidence remains on solid footing as growing demand is expected to spur continued growth in new residential construction.
* Millenials Will Spend 45% of Income on Rent Before Age 30.As rent prices continue to rise, a new study shows Millennials are paying about 45% of their total income toward rent, and pay out close to $100,000 toward rent before they turn 30. Analyzing U.S. Census Bureau data going back as far as 1974, a new study from RentCaféfound that Millennials have been the hardest generation for those ages 22 to 30. And the future does not look bright for Generation Z. As it turns out, Millennials pay about $92,600 in rent by the time they turn 30. While they may earn more in income compared to previous generations, they also have to spend more on rent, the study showed. While Baby Boomers paid just 36% of their income toward rent while in their 20s, Gen Xers paid 41% and Millennials now pay 45% of their monthly income toward rent.
* U.S. Jobless Claims Drop to More Than 45-Year Low.The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell to more than a 45-year low last week, suggesting the economy remains strong despite signs of a slowdown in the first quarter. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 215,000 for the week ended March 24, the lowest level since January 1973, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Claims have now been below the 300,000 threshold, which is associated with a strong labor market, for 158 straight weeks. That is the longest such stretch since 1970, when the labor market was much smaller. The labor market is considered to be near or at full employment. The jobless rate is at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent, not too far from the Federal Reserve’s forecast of 3.8 percent by the end of this year.
The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System published it’s most recent Survey of Consumer FinancesThis Week in Real Estate concluding that the primary residence represents the largest asset category on the balance sheets of households. Below are a few highlights from the third week of March that influence our business:
* Homeownership is Key to Household Wealth.According to the 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), nationally, the primary residence represents the largest asset category on the balance sheets of households in 2016. At $24.2 trillion, the primary residence accounted for about one quarter of all assets held by households in 2016, surpassing other financial assets (20%), business interests (20%) and retirement accounts (15%). The 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) was published by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. Compared to the quarterly Financial Accounts of the United States (previously known as the Flow of Funds Accounts), which provides aggregate information on household balance sheets, the SCF provides family-level data about U.S. household balance sheets and is available every three years. This post uses the 2016 data from the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) to analyze household balance sheets, especially their primary residence, by age categories. Total assets were $3.7 trillion for households under age 35, while they were $35.6 trillion for households aged 65 or older. The aggregate value of assets held by families where the head was aged 65 or older was approximately 10 times larger than those held by families where the head was under the age of 35. The increases in the total assets among age groups indicate that the value of assets grows with age groups. Among homeowners under the age of 45, home equity was the largest category of the household’s net worth (the sum of medians does not equal the median of the total). However, for homeowners above the age of 45, non-primary residence equity eclipses home equity as the larger portion of net worth, reflecting the accumulation of other assets by homeowners in later life stages.
* Permits Rise in January 2018.Over the first month of 2018, the total number of single-family permits issued nationwide reached 61,767. On a year-over-year basis, this is a 15.1% increase over the January 2017 level of 53,648. The results from the SOC are similar, single-family permits over the first month of 2018 was, 61,100 which is 14.0% ahead of its level over the same period of 2017, 53,600. Between January 2017 to January 2018, 32 states and the District of Columbia saw growth in single-family permits issued. Twenty states recorded a growth above 15.1% but 18 states had a decline in growth. Idaho had the highest growth rate during this time at 101.6% while single-family permits New Hampshire declined by 43.1%. In the single-family sector, Texas led with 10,119 permits issued year-to-date in January 2018 and Florida was second with 7,300 during this time. Meanwhile the lowest number came from the District of Columbia with 21 permits. The 10 states issuing the highest number of single-family permits combined accounted for 65.0% of the single-family permits issued. Year-to-date, ending in January 2018, the total number of multifamily permits issued nationwide reached 34,907. This is 3.6% ahead of its level over the first month of 2017, 33,679. The results from the SOC show an increase of 9.8% in multifamily permits over the first month of 2018, 37,000 compared to the same period of 2017, 33,700. Between January 2017 to January 2018, 27 states recorded growth while 23 states and the District of Columbia recorded a decline in multifamily permits.
* Move Over Millenials, Gen Z is Already Buying Homes.Who’s afraid of growing up? Apparently not Generation Z. The post-Millennial crop of kids, those born in 1995 and later, arealready moving into homeownership. For Gen Z it is very early in the traditional homebuying cycle, but TransUnion reports they already held 99,000 mortgages in the 4th quarter of 2017. This was dwarfed of course by the 12 million Millennials, but members of the much smaller Generation X had 24 million mortgages, as did nearly 27 million baby boomers and 5.1 million members of the Silent Generation. They might be young, but these buyers seem to take homeownership seriously. Just 1.2 percent are more than 60 days past due on their mortgages while the average for Millennials is 1.6 percent. Mortgages held by Generation Xers are running 2.3 percent non-current and baby boomers have a 60-day delinquency rate of 1.6 percent.
CoreLogic reported This Week in Real Estate that homeowners gained the most equity in 2017 of any year since 2013…$908.4 billion collectively. Below are a few highlights from the second week of March that influence our business:
* Builder Confidence Remains on Solid Footing.Builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes edged down one point to a level of 70 in March from a downwardly revised February reading on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI). This is the fourth consecutive month at or above a level of 70 for the HMI, an indication of strong single-family housing market conditions. Builders’ optimism continues to be fueled by growing consumer demand for housing and confidence in the market. A strong labor market, rising incomes and a growing economy are boosting demand for homeownership even as interest rates rise. Managing construction costs and future sales prices will be a key challenge in medium-term as costs associated with both land development and home construction continue to increase. Nonetheless, with positive economic fundamentals in place, the single-family sector should continue to make gains at a gradual pace in the months ahead. Looking at the three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores, the Northeast rose one point to 57, the South decreased one point to 73, the West fell two points to 79, and the Midwest dropped four points to 68.
* Homeowners Gained an Average of $15,000 in Home Equity Last Year – or $908 Billion in Total.A sharp rise in home values last year gave homeowners a strong infusion of cash, in the form of home equity. It also helped more than half a million borrowers rise above water on their mortgages. All real estate is, of course, local, and some homeowners saw significantly bigger gains than others, especially those in the Western region of the nation. Overall, however, they gained the most equity of any year since 2013. Homeowners with a mortgage, representing about 63 percent of all properties, saw their equity increase 12 percent over the course of last year, according to CoreLogic. That comes to an average of $15,000 per homeowner and a collective gain of $908.4 billion. Those calculations are based on the largest home price growth in four years. States like California and Washington saw even higher price growth, so homeowners in those states gained an average of $44,000 and $40,000, respectively. “Because wealth gains spur additional consumer purchases, the rise in home-equity wealth during 2017 should add more than $50 billion to U.S. consumption spending over the next two to three years,” said Frank Nothaft, chief economist at CoreLogic. The rise in home equity also brought about 700,000 borrowers into a positive equity position on their mortgages, according to CoreLogic.
* Millennials Lead all Other Generations in Buying Homes. Millennials held the highest share of home buying activity out of all other generations for the fifth consecutive year, according to the 2018 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends study from the National Association of Realtors. Just over one-third of all home purchases were made by Millennials, who held a market share of 36% over the past year, up from 34% in 2017. Gen Xers ranked second at 26%, a drop from 28% in 2017, followed by the Baby Boomers with 32%, up from 30% in 2017 and the Silent Generation with 6%, down from 8% in 2017. Among the trends Realtors are seeing in the younger home-buying generation, they are more likely to live closer to friends and family, rather than in select areas of the city or certain schools. They are also buying condos in the city at a very low rate, and are the most likely generation to use a real estate agent with 90% of Millennials purchasing through an agent.
Favorable news released This Week in Real Estate by the FDIC and NAHB with respect to the easing of credit and a growing AD&C loan base resulting in the expansion of residential construction activity. Below are a few highlights from the first week of March that influence our business:
* U.S. Home Flipping Increases to 11-Year High in 2017 With More Than 200,000 Homes Flipped.ATTOM Data Solutions released its Q4 and 2017 U.S. Home Flipping Report on Thursday, which shows that 207,088 U.S. single family homes and condos were flipped in 2017, up 1 percent from 204,167 home flips in 2016 to the highest level since 2006 – an 11-year high. The 207,088 homes flipped in 2017 represented 5.9 percent of all single family home and condo sales during the year, up from 5.7 percent of all sales in 2016 to the highest level since 2013. “The surge in home flipping in the last three years is built on a more fundamentally sound foundation than the flipping frenzy that we witnessed a little more than a decade ago,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM Data Solutions. “Flippers are behaving more rationally, as evidenced by average gross flipping returns of 50 percent over the last three years compared to average gross flipping returns of just 31 percent between 2004 and 2006 — the last time we saw more than 200,000 home flips in consecutive years. And while financing for flippers has become more readily available in recent years, 65 percent of flippers still used cash to buy homes flipped in 2017, nearly the reverse of 2004 to 2006, when 63 percent of flippers were leveraging financing to buy.” The total dollar volume of financed home flip purchases was $16.1 billion for homes flipped in 2017, up 27 percent from $12.7 billion in 2016 to the highest level since 2007 — a 10-year high. Completed home flips in 2017 yielded an average gross profit of $68,143 (difference between median purchase price and median flipped sale price), up 5 percent from an average gross flipping profit of $64,900 in 2016 to a new all-time high for as far back as data is available (2000). Homes flipped in 2017 took an average of 182 days to complete the flip, tied with 2016 for the highest average days to flip since 2006 — an 11-year high.
* AD&C Loan Growth Points Toward More Building.The volume of residential construction loans increased by 1.6% during the fourth quarter of 2017, marking 19 consecutive quarters of growth. Furthermore, stabilization for the year-over-year growth rate is an indicator of continued, modest growth for single-family construction. Tight availability of acquisition, development and construction (AD&C) loans has been a limiting factor for home building growth, but easing credit conditions and a growing loan base have helped expand residential construction activity in a thin inventory environment. According to data from the FDIC and NAHB analysis, the outstanding stock of 1-4 unit residential construction loans made by FDIC-insured institutions rose by $1.2 billion during the fourth quarter of 2017, raising the total stock of outstanding loans to $74.4 billion. On a year-over-year basis, the stock of residential construction loans is up 7%. Past quarters of slow growth have reduced the year-over-year growth rate, but it has has stabilized during the third and fourth quarters near the recent expansion rate for single-family construction starts. Since the first quarter of 2013, the stock of outstanding home building construction loans has grown by 83%, an increase of $33.6 billion. However, lending remains much reduced from years past. The current stock of existing residential AD&C loans now stands 64% lower than the peak level of residential construction lending of $203.8 billion reached during the first quarter of 2008.
* Job Growth Surges with Strongest Growth Since Last Summer.Job growth continued its surge in February, this time growing at its strongest rate since July last year, according to the latest release from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Total non-farm payroll employment increased by 313,000 in February, according to the report. This is drastically higher than ADP and Moody’s Analytics’ predicted increase of 235,000 jobs and up from the general estimated increase of 205,000 jobs. It is also an increase from January’s growth, which came in at 200,000 jobs. This marks the 89th consecutive month of job growth, and the largest monthly gain since July 2016, according to realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale. “There will be more Fed hikes in 2018, but impact on mortgage rates are uncertain,” Lending Tree Chief Economist Tendayi Kapfidze said. “Labor market growth continues to support the Feds rate hike cycle. However, the Fed hiked three times in 2017 and mortgage rates fell by 33 basis points.” “The February jobs report was as good as it gets, with the establishment survey showing the largest monthly job gain since July 2016, solid upward revisions for the prior two months, a rebound in the average workweek, and most of all, no runaway wage acceleration,” Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan said.
While the Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI) fell in January to its lowest level since October 2014 according to a release from the National Association of Realtors This Week in Real Estate, the amount of homeowner equity has reached a new peak. Below are a few highlights from the last week of February that influence our business:
* CoreLogic: Evaluating the Housing Market Since the Great Recession.This report details the remarkable 11-year economic cycle surrounding the last U.S. housing market downturn, examining the boom and bust years between 2006 and 2011 and the ensuing recovery, with data through December 2017.Residential home prices began to peak in some parts of the country as early as 2005. Home prices collapsed in 2007, when Wall Street began to back out of residential mortgage-backed securities. After falling 33 percent during the recession, prices in most markets have returned to peak levels, growing 51 percent nationally since bottoming out in March 2011. The average home price is now 1 percent higher than it was at the peak in 2006. “Homeowners in the United States experienced a run-up in prices from the early 2000s to 2006, and then saw the trend reverse with steady declines through 2011,” said Dr. Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic. “After reaching bottom in 2011, our national price index is up more than 50 percent. West Coast states, such as California, Washington and Oregon are seeing some of largest trough-to-current growth rates in home prices. Greater demand and lower supply – as well as booming job markets – have given some of the hardest-hit housing markets a boost in home prices.
* Pending Home Sales Start 2018 Lower.The Pending Home Sales Index decreased 4.7% in January to the lowest level since October 2014. The Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI) is a forward-looking indicator based on signed contracts reported by the National Association of Realtors. The PHSI fell to 104.6 in January from a downwardly revised 109.8 in December. The PHSI decreased in all four regions, ranging from 1.2% in the West to 9.0% in the Northeast. Year-over-year, the PHSI also decreased in all four regions, ranging from 1.1% in the South to 12.1% in the Northeast. NAR reported that listings were 9.5% below the level a year ago. NAR suggested that in addition to new residential construction, relief from the extreme shortage of supply could come from institutional investors dumping single-family homes back into the market and more homeowners deciding to sell. Existing home sales fell 3.2% in January, and new home sales declined 7.8% last month. However, builder confidence remained at a strong level in February. Job growth, increasing homeownership rates and limited inventory will spur continued growth in new residential construction.
* Homeowner Equity Surpasses Previous Peak.As house prices climb, the amount of American homeowner equity continues to grow. As of third quarter 2017, the Federal Reserve estimates owners’ equity — that is, aggregate home value less outstanding mortgage debt — is $14.1 trillion. Home equity has surpassed the previous peak of $13.4 trillion from first quarter 2006 during the past year, recovering from the great price correction that more than halved home equity positions. Home equity holdings were 40 percent higher than the aggregate value of household and non-profit checking and savings accounts in the third quarter, emphasizing its importance on the household balance sheet.